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Autism Often Not Diagnosed Until Age 5 or Older: U.S. Report
Date:5/24/2012

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, May 24 (HealthDay News) -- Even though autism symptoms typically emerge before age 3, most children with autism are diagnosed when they're 5 or older, a new snapshot of autism in America shows.

More than half of U.S. children with an autism spectrum disorder are taking at least one psychotropic medicine -- including stimulants, anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants, sleep aids, seizure medications or antipsychotics -- even though there are no drugs that have clearly been shown to impact the core symptoms of the disorder.

The findings are from a nationally representative survey of more than 4,000 parents or guardians of children with special needs aged 6 to 17, including about 1,400 who had an autism spectrum disorder. The report was compiled by researchers from the U.S National Institute of Mental Health in conjunction with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"This is a snapshot of what the nation looks like. American families can compare their experience to what others have found," said study co-author Lisa Colpe, chief of the office of clinical and population epidemiology research at the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.

Among the other key findings:

  • About 19 percent of kids were diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder at age 2 or younger; 17 percent were diagnosed at age 3; 13 percent were age 4; 11.5 percent were age 5; and nearly 40 percent were 6 or older when they were diagnosed.
  • Children were identified by a range of health care professionals, including pediatricians, family physicians, nurse practitioners, psychologists, developmental psychologists, neurologists and multidisciplinary teams.
  • Nine of 10 school-aged children with an autism spectrum disorder use at least one service to meet their developmental needs, while just over half of the kids use three or more services.
  • The most co
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Autism Often Not Diagnosed Until Age 5 or Older: U.S. Report
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