Specific symptoms influence the age at which children are diagnosed with
autism, according to a new study.
Children who displayed only seven of 12 recognized autism symptoms were
diagnosed more than four years later on average than kids with all 12 symptoms,
"When it comes to the timing of autism identification, the symptoms actually
matter quite a bit," study lead author Matthew Maenner, of the University of
Wisconsin, Madison, said in a university news release.
"Early diagnosis is one of the major public-health goals related to autism,"
Maenner said. "The earlier you can identify that a child might be having
problems, the sooner they can receive support to help them succeed and reach
How the study was done
The research team looked at the medical records of more than 2 700 children
with autism at age eight and found a significant connection between age of diagnosis
and how many symptoms were displayed.
The median age at diagnosis (the age at which half the children were
diagnosed) was 8.2 years for children with seven symptoms and 3.8 years for
those with all 12 symptoms.
Certain symptoms also played an important role. Children with repetitive
movements, inflexibility in routines and impairments in nonverbal communication
and imaginary play were more likely to be diagnosed at a younger age.
Children who had problems with speech, conversation and interaction with
other children were more likely to be diagnosed at a later age, according to the
study, which was published in the April issue of the Journal of the American
Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Research suggests that autism can be reliably diagnosed by age two, but this
study found that fewer than half of children with autism are diagnosed by age
Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that affects as many as 1 in
88 US children, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and
The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about
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