MADISON The age at which a child with autism is diagnosed is related to the particular suite of behavioral symptoms he or she exhibits, new research from the University of WisconsinMadison shows.
Certain diagnostic features, including poor nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors, were associated with earlier identification of an autism spectrum disorder, according to a study in the April issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Displaying more behavioral features was also associated with earlier diagnosis.
"Early diagnosis is one of the major public health goals related to autism," says lead study author Matthew Maenner, a researcher at the UWMadison Waisman Center. "The earlier you can identify that a child might be having problems, the sooner they can receive support to help them succeed and reach their potential."
But there is a large gap between current research and what is actually happening in schools and communities, Maenner adds. Although research suggests autism can be reliably diagnosed by age 2, the new analysis shows that fewer than half of children with autism are identified in their communities by age 5.
One challenge is that autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are extremely diverse. According to the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR), the standard handbook used for classification of psychiatric disorders, there are more than 600 different symptom combinations that meet the minimum criteria for diagnosing autistic disorder, one subtype of ASD.
Previous research on age at diagnosis has focused on external factors such as gender, socioeconomic status, and intellectual disability. Maenner and his colleagues instead looked at patterns of the 12 behavioral features used to diagnose autism according to the DSM-IV-TR.
He and Maureen Durkin, a UWMadison profess
|Contact: Matthew Maenner|
University of Wisconsin-Madison