A new study on children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has found there are still long delays between when parents first have developmental concerns and when their child is actually diagnosed with ASD. Findings from the study will be published in The Journal of Pediatrics.
Researchers from the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Oregon Health & Science University and Oregon State University analyzed data from the 2011 Survey of Pathways to Diagnosis and Services to study 1,420 children with ASD and 2,098 children with nonspecific intellectual disability/developmental delay (ID/DD). They sought to examine how healthcare providers respond to parental concerns about their child’s early development, as well as the impact of that response on the timing of ASD diagnosis.
Study authors documented the child’s age when parents first had concerns about development, the age at first discussion with a healthcare provider about the concerns, the provider’s response to the concerns, and the age at diagnosis in children with ASD. They found that parents expressed initial concerns about ASD around age 2 compared with ID/DD around age 3. Children with ASD had 14% less proactive provider responses to parental concerns than children with ID/DD. Also, parents of children with ASD were more likely to be reassured by their provider that their child will “grow out of it.” Passive providers were found to wait as much as ≥2 years to diagnose ASD vs. providers who were more proactive.
Generally, children were not diagnosed with ASD until about age 5, which is almost three years after parents expressed their concerns to healthcare providers. Study authors conclude that the healthcare provider behavior is an important factor in delayed autism diagnosis. More education and training may be needed to confront parental concerns, especially for ASD.
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