THE AUTISM SCIENCE FOUNDATION HAILS NEW CDC FINDINGS ON LOWER INITIAL AGE OF FIRST EVALUATION, CALLS FOR FURTHER ACTION TO PROMOTE EVEN EARLIER DIAGNOSIS AND INTERVENTION
NEW YORK, NY (December 10, 2015) – The Autism Science Foundation today hailed new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) findings of an improvement in the age of initial diagnosis of autism. Citing new data from its pilot Early Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (ADDM) study, the CDC reported a five-month decrease in the age of first comprehensive developmental evaluation for autism in a cohort of 4 year-old preschool children with autism. On average, these children born in 2006 had an average age of diagnosis of 2 years, 3 months, compared to children born in 2002 who had an average age of diagnosis of 2 years 8 months.
“The decrease in age of first evaluation for concerns is an important improvement because we know that the earlier children are identified and the sooner they begin early intervention services, the better their long term outcome,” said Dr. Alycia Halladay, chief science officer of the Autism Science Foundation. “By continuing to study children’s development between age 4 and 8, we can gain actionable information that can inform how school districts and other service-providers can best help children during this critical developmental period.”
The prevalence of 4 year-olds was 30% less than seen in 8 year-olds, which is not an entirely new finding. Earlier this year, the High Risk Baby Siblings Research Consortium reported that while a diagnosis at 18 months is stable, some children do not meet criteria for a diagnosis until 3 years. Children with a lower IQ were more likely to receive an early diagnosis, confirming earlier findings that children with more behavioral symptoms are more likely to be picked up earlier.
Said Autism Science Foundation President Alison Singer, who participated in a CDC teleconference about
the new findings: “What’s five months in the scheme of things? It’s huge. That’s five months a mother or father doesn’t have to spend questioning their toddler’s development and behavior — or questioning whether they should be doing more to help him. That’s five fewer months of painful uncertainty. For a parent, five months can be an eternity.”
Added Singer, “We’ve gained five months, which is wonderful news. Now let’s be greedy and try to gain 12 months, 18 months, for all children. We need to keep chipping away at the delay and disparity in diagnosis. We’re making important and measurable progress, but, working together, we can do even more.”
Halladay noted: “While this is great news, there is still progress to be made with regards to racial and ethnic variation in age of diagnosis. At 4 years of age, there was no difference in diagnosis rates between African American and Caucasian children. However, African American children still experience a delay in the age of first developmental evaluation.”
The overall prevalence of autism in the cohort of 4 years-olds was reported to be 13.4 per 1000 (1 in 75). This is the first time prevalence numbers have been reported for 4 year-old children. For the past 15 years, the ADDM network has reported autism prevalence in 8 year-old children. The new CDC data are not the widely cited “1 in x” prevalence data; those data, which measure the change in prevalence among 8 year-old children, are reported every two years and are next expected in the spring of 2016.
The same methodology was used to measure prevalence in 4 year-old children and in 8 year-old children: examination of school and health records. Preschool records were examined in 5 sites, a subset of the 12 ADDM sites.
Today’s report was published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.
About The Autism Science Foundation
The Autism Science Foundation (ASF) is a 501(c)(3) public charity. Its mission is to support autism research by providing funding to scientists and organizations conducting autism research. ASF also provides information about autism to the general public and serves to increase awareness of autism spectrum disorders and the needs of individuals and families affected by autism. To learn more about the Autism Science Foundation or to make a donation, visit www.autismsciencefoundation.org.
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