Health experts have identified which children in the country with autism spectrum disorders are at higher risk of developing a condition called vulnerable child syndromes, or TIPS.
The latest figures show that in the last two years, more than 3,100 children with the condition were identified in Ottawa.
They are the ones most at risk for developing a disability, said Dr. John Gagnon, president of the Canadian Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
They are also more likely to be isolated from their families and their communities, with many living in homes with more than one parent, said Gagnons medical director of research and education at the Ottawa Hospital.
“I think there are very few families in the world where the children have all the parents they want,” said Gascón.
But the latest figures suggest that in Ottawa alone, some 1,835 children are diagnosed with TIPS, a number that rose from the previous year.
That compares with a population of just under 2,000 in the rest of Canada, which includes Prince Edward Island, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
The number of children in Ontario who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition has been steadily rising for decades.
That has raised concern among some health experts, including Gagnson, that there is a trend of children being diagnosed more frequently in this province.
“We don’t want our children to have a disability and be isolated in a home where they’re at a disadvantage,” said Dr and former director of the Ottawa Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Dr. James Martin.
“We need to have as much information as possible about these kids, so we can intervene in the best way possible.”
But Gagnón says the numbers suggest that children are not the only ones who are at risk.
“These are kids who are growing up in a place where they are isolated from the community,” said the neuroscientist.
“The more isolation, the more the risk is for the kids, and the more risk, the higher the risk.”
“They are not isolated from a family,” he said.
“They are isolated because they have not had the support they need.
And so, they need to be encouraged and supported in terms of their abilities.”
But the numbers of children who are diagnosed are increasing.
This year, the numbers increased by more than 2,400 to 2,842, with more children now being diagnosed in Ottawa than at any time in the past five years.
Dr Gagnan said there has been a shift in the way the system is operating and that the numbers are now rising again.
“It is really a dramatic change.
We don’t see these numbers in other provinces,” he explained.
In the last 10 years, the number of cases has risen by more nearly 20 per cent, to nearly 1,900.
Gagnont said the numbers indicate there is an increasing need for more resources and awareness in order to combat this growing problem.
“That is why we need to look at all the different services and interventions that we have and look at the way we are treating them.”
The numbers also show that there are growing numbers of adults who are also diagnosed with the conditions.
This could be because of an increase in the number and severity of symptoms of autism and other conditions, said the Ottawa hospital’s Dr. Andrew Leung.
“In some cases, the condition is so severe that there might be a person who is living in a hospital bed, but who does not have any disability,” he added.
“It is a very, very difficult condition for people to understand.”
Gagnon said there is also a need for better support and education for those in care for autism spectrum conditions, as well as for the families of children with disabilities.
He also believes that the government needs to take steps to increase awareness of the condition, especially for children in school.
“This is a serious problem, but I think we need better attention to it and better education,” he noted.
“And to have some kind of mechanism that you can go to, so that they know they are not alone, and they have support.”