Autism Not Diagnosed in Most Children Until Age Five Despite Early Detection Options

Autism RibbonThe  American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be screened for autism at eighteen months of age, yet, despite that recommendation, a new study published in the NCHS Data Brief has found that most children with autism spectrum disorder are not diagnosed until at least five years old.

The study examined children ages six to seventeen who have been diagnosed with forms of autism that range from mild to severe and found that more than 50% of school-aged children were age five or older when they were first diagnosed with autism. The study also found that less than 20% of children were diagnosed by the age of two.

Researchers stress that early detection of autism spectrum disorder is important because behavioral therapies tend to be more effective when they are able to address developmental delays at a younger age.

The study found that nine out of ten children received one or more therapies and that most of those interventions involved speech or language therapy and/or social skills training. The study also found that at least half of children involved were given stimulants, anti-anxiety drugs, or antidepressants. The study also found that 12% of children with autism did not receive suggested services and less than half received the type of behavorial therapies believes to be most helpful.

According to researcher Lisa J. Colpe, PhD, MPH, of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, “Our data indicate that many children with autism – the majority – are getting some sort of services such as speech or other individual-based interventions. That is great news.”

The CDC estimates that one out of eighty-eight children in the United States has an autism spectrum disorder, and, for that reason, specialists urge parents to carefully watch their children for signs of autism at an early age and then to push for testing if they recognize any tell-tale signs of autism spectrum disorder.


Most children with autism diagnosed at 5 or older:

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Autism Ribbon:

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