Assessment of co-occurring conditions/symptoms may provide opportunity for early identification of children with autism

 

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The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders has published a new article, Prevalence of co-occurring medical and behavioral conditions/symptoms among 4- and 8-year-old children with autism spectrum disorder in selected areas of the United States in 2010, using data from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.

In this study, researchers compared the number of 4-year-old and 8-year-old children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who have one or more co-occurring conditions or symptoms along with ASD. The presence of co-occurring conditions or symptoms in children with ASD can make it difficult for some of these children to get a timely diagnosis of ASD, possibly resulting in delayed access to services. On the other hand, the presence of co-occurring conditions or symptoms can also make parents more likely to consult healthcare providers, possibly leading to early identification of ASD.

Data from the study show the following:

  • More than 95% of children with ASD had at least one co-occurring condition or symptom, and this prevalence was higher among older children. Further, these children had a variety of co-occurring conditions or symptoms, including behavioral, developmental and medical.
  • Different co-occurring conditions or symptoms could influence the age at first evaluation for ASD in opposing directions, meaning that
    • Some co-occurring conditions or symptoms could result in earlier identification of ASD if it triggers an early comprehensive developmental assessment.
    • Other co-occurring conditions or symptoms could mask core behaviors related to ASD, resulting in later identification.
  • Among the 8-year-olds, the prevalence of most co-occurring conditions or symptoms was higher in children with a previous ASD diagnosis documented in their records.

Findings from this study could help inform developmental screening programs, clinical assessments of children with ASD, and early intervention programs. Since this study showed that co-occurring conditions or symptoms were documented even in the younger age group, and these children are more likely to be in contact with different healthcare providers, assessment of co-occurring conditions or symptoms at an early age may provide opportunity for early identification of children with ASD.


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