Author: Maathumai Ranjan (PhD Candidate, ANU Crawford School of Public Policy)

Reported autism prevalence has risen markedly over the last decade and is rapidly becoming an area of focus for many countries around the world. In Australia, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS, Scheme) is the primary means of government financial support available for people with disability. NDIS participants with autism and developmental delay, which can often precede an autism diagnosis, account for 45% of all participants and 75% of participants under 18 years of age. Understanding why the largest cohort in the Scheme is rapidly increasing can provide insight to inform effective Scheme design. This paper summarises key findings from recent research into international trends of autism prevalence and the proposed drivers of these increasing trends. The paper then presents preliminary analysis using the Person-Level Integrated Data Asset (PLIDA, formerly MADIP) from the Australian Bureau of Statistics to assess the potential impact of changing government financial incentives on autism prevalence in Australia using the roll out of the NDIS by age and region as a natural experiment.

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