May 5, 2009

Autism diagnosis may occur years late

U.S. researchers suggest autism diagnoses are not occurring soon enough.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, also found female cases were identified later than male cases.

Timely identification and diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder can impact a child's development and is the key to opening the door to the services and therapies available to children with autism, study lead author Paul Shattuck of Washington University in St. Louis said in a statement.

Unfortunately, our research shows that the average age of autism diagnosis is nearly 6 years old, which is three to four years after diagnosis is possible.

The study was based on data from 13 sites across the country collecting information from the health and education records of 8-year-olds with developmental problems.

Shattuck says parents need to trust their instincts.

If there is something about your child's development that concerns you, or if your child is exhibiting some symptoms of autism such as a failure to make eye contact, not speaking one word by 16 months, or not responding to their name, talk to your child's pediatrician, Shattuck said. If the doctor ignores your concerns, seek a second opinion.