(HealthDay News) – School-aged children with special health care needs (CSHCN) who have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are usually identified at age 5, and the majority use one or more services and/or at least one psychotropic medication to meet their developmental needs.

Beverly A. Pringle, PhD, from the NCHS in Hyattsville, MD, and colleagues reviewed data from the 2011 Survey of Pathways to Diagnosis and Services to describe the identification of school-aged CSHCN with ASD, and the services and medications used to meet their developmental needs.

The investigators found that school-aged CSHCN with ASD were first identified as having ASD at a median age of 5 years. Children who were identified at an earlier age (<5 years old) were most commonly identified by generalists and psychologists, while those identified at an age >5 years were primarily identified by psychologists and psychiatrists. To meet their developmental needs, nine out of 10 school-aged CSHCN with ASD used one or more services. The most commonly used services were social skills training and speech or language therapy. Psychotropic medication was used by more than one-half of school-aged CSHCN with ASD.

“Early identification is an important first step toward making sure that children with ASD and their families are able to access and benefit from early intervention, which has been associated with positive developmental outcomes,” the authors write.

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