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Where a Child Is Tested May Affect Autism Diagnosis
Date:11/7/2011

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Nov. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Whether health professionals diagnose a child with autism or with a milder form of the neurodevelopmental disorder such as Asperger syndrome isn't determined only by the child's symptoms, but by where the child is assessed, a new study finds.

Researchers found wide variability at autism centers across the nation in the criteria health professionals used to determine whether a child should be diagnosed with "autistic disorder" or instead receive a diagnosis of a subtype of autism, including pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome.

The study authors said the findings support the growing movement among some autism experts to do away with distinctions such as Asperger and instead put everyone who meets certain criteria under the same umbrella, "autism spectrum disorder."

In the study, researchers collected data on about 2,100 children aged 4 to 18 who met the criteria for an autism spectrum disorder and had been seen at one of 12 university-based autism centers across the United States. The children had all undergone a battery of tests commonly used to measure language, thinking and communications skills, and behavior. A psychologist, psychiatrist or other health professional with autism expertise used the results of the tests and an examination to make the final diagnosis.

At one site, every child was diagnosed with autism; no child was diagnosed with Asperger or PDD-NOS. Conversely, another site labeled about 40 percent of kids as having Asperger and 40 percent with PDD-NOS, leaving only 20 percent with autism.

The reason for the inconsistency was that each site appeared to be using its own cutoffs and criteria for autism versus Asperger and PDD-NOS. For example, at one site, kids with an IQ of over 70 were given an Asperger diagnosis, while at another site, kids had to have an IQ o
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