News release

Date: 28th May 2010

Demand from families for information on autism doubles in a year

Leading Family Information Service sees massive increase in demand for advice

May 28 2010 - Demand for information on Autistic Spectrum Conditions by families in Sheffield has more than doubled in some cases in the last year according to leading Family Information Service, Sheffield Information Link (SIL).

SIL manages the Sheffield Information Giving Network (SIGN), a service for families of children with disabilities, health conditions and special needs. SIGN’s comparative figures for information requests for 2008/09 and 2009/10 show increases of 67% for Aspergers Syndrome, 16% for Dyspraxia and 13% for Autism; all three are considered to be related to the Autistic Spectrum Condition.

“These figures show the absolute demand and need for easy to access specialist information so that families can take appropriate action to help their children. Diagnosis for Autism and related conditions is rising across the UK but we were shocked by the increase for information. Some of the families that come to us are literally at their wits end trying to find information and support. They need advice and signposting in a number of areas. Coming to terms with an autistic diagnosis is not easy, which is where a specialist advice service can really benefit the whole family,” said SIL Chief Executive, Sharron Baroudi.

Cherie Whortley from Stocksbridge, Sheffield sought help from SIGN when her son Nathan (4) was diagnosed with behavioural issues that could be on the autistic spectrum. Nathan was born nine weeks premature, resulting in him having multiple medical conditions.

“We didn’t know where to go; we were getting desperate for help and advice. SIGN gave us loads of help and advice on education, support, playgroups and short-break grants. They were brilliant and could not do enough for us,” said Cherie Whortley.

A study by the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University, published last year in the British Journal of Psychiatry, suggested that autism has risen 12-fold in the past 30 years and may be 50 per cent higher than previously suspected.

“Our figures certainly confirm those from the Autism Research Centre and suggest that even more resource and support needs to be made available to families,” said Sharron Baroudi.

Phil Carpenter, Director of NORSACA, one of the most experienced UK providers of services for children with an Autistic Spectrum Condition says he is not surprised at the rise in demand for information from families: “We have been helping families whose children are affected by autism for over 40 years and have seen year on year demand for help increase. Sheffield is no different to anywhere else in the country in terms of increased demand but it has risen to the challenge by providing a valued support service.”
SIL is Sheffield’s largest, independent provider of information to families, carers and professionals in the care sector. Last year it handled over 14,000 enquiries and helped nearly 4,500 families with all sorts of information requests ranging from locating a childminder to paternity rights and flexible working obligations of employers.

SIL’s services were launched over twenty years ago and the organisation has gone on to become a leader in its field. Being the first City-wide children’s information service in the country, it has led by example and many other cities have followed suit.


Notes to editors

The following table contains the comparative figures for information requested from Sheffield families.

Information Subject Packs

Aspergers 105 175 70 67%
Dyspraxia 82 95 13 16%
Autism 190 215 25 13%
Speech 52 55 3 6%
ADHD 155 160 5 3%
Total 584 700 116

For further information on SIL or SIGN contact Graham Parker at Parker PR on 07977 448 306 or visit

For more information on NORSACA please visit
Autism is a complex, life-long condition which affects the development of communication, social and life skills. The extent of the autistic spectrum is wide-ranging, varying from profound severity in some to subtle problems of understanding in others. Autism often occurs with other learning difficulties.

All those affected by autism have pronounced difficulties in:
• Communication – many things that people without autism take for granted, such as words, gestures, tones of voice and facial expressions can mean little to people with autism
• Social relationships – children and adults with autism can often be indifferent to other people, members of the public, friends and even their parents / carers
• Social imagination – abstract ideas, imaginative thought and activities are affected and people with autism can face great difficulties in generalising their experiences to different settings
With the right structured support, education and care, much can be done to help children and adults with autism to live as full and independent a life as possible.

For further information on contact Graham Parker at Parker PR on 07977 448 306

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