One in four children under age 8 with autism spectrum disorder are undiagnosed according to a recent study published in the journal of Autism Research.
For the study, researchers from Rutgers University in New Jersey looked at the education and medical records of 266,000 children who were 8 years old in 2014. The team evaluated how many of the children who presented with autism symptoms were not diagnosed. Of the nearly 4,500 children identified, 25% (mostly black or hispanic males) were not diagnosed.
KXAN-TV reached out Child Neurology Consultants of Austin to learn more about the value of early diagnosis.
Why is Early Intervention for Autism Important?
“The most important thing is to get kids into therapy as soon as possible,” said pediatric neurologist, Dr. Kate Labiner in an interview with KXAN-TV’s Sally Hernandez.
Early intervention helps children with autism achieve long-term improvements by preventing the problematic behavior from becoming a habit. A variety of treatments can be used to manage symptoms such as speech therapy, behavioral therapy, occupational therapy, parent training and school intervention.
She says that as a child gets older, it becomes more difficult to “unlearn” the behaviors. Yet, Dr. Labiner acknowledges that diagnosing autism can sometimes be difficult.
“It is a spectrum disorder meaning you have some kids who are very affected and some who are much less affected. I believe it was those kids who were might be “trucking along” — those who have some mild social issues or school performance issues — who may have been missed,” commented Dr. Labiner.
What To Do If You Suspect Your Child Has Autism
Dr. Labiner told KXAN that she encourages parents to talk to their health care provider about any early signs of autism they may see in their child.
“These symptoms sometimes don’t manifest — and are not really obvious — until they get a little bit older and you may say ‘Hmm, you were doing that a year ago and we thought that was okay because you were young but now you’re older and it’s not so okay anymore,” described Dr. Labiner.
Autism symptoms vary but may include:
- Communication difficulties
- Social challenges
- Repetitive behaviors
- Restricted range of interests
Click here to see the full interview on KXAN.com.