Why Autism Diagnoses Are Often Delayed

Autism Diagnoses, developmental issue, Autism spectrum disorders

Symptoms of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) can be as individual as each child. The many subtypes can cause issues ranging from poor motor skills, repetitive movements, and speech delays to difficult social interactions, sensitivities to sights and sounds, and more. Severity also varies from mild to severe. Early intervention is key for a child to learn important social skills and successfully navigate society, yet some children are still not being diagnosed in timely manner.

Here at Valencia Pediatrics in Victorville, California, Dr. Rainilda Valencia and her team provide high-quality care to children from birth through age 18. We combine the best of both worlds with cutting-edge treatments in a modern office environment and a traditional warm bedside manner and passion for their work. We provide everything from exams and vaccinations to treatments for allergies, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, and more.

Autism by the numbers

Autism spectrum disorders affect approximately 1 in 59 children with boys four times as likely to be diagnosed as girls. Despite the fact ASD can be detected in most children as young as 2, most cases are not recognized until after age 4. With April being National Autism Awareness Month, we’d like to bring attention to this issue.

Reasons for the diagnosis delay

Experts can shed light on why an autism diagnosis is sometimes long in coming. In many cases, children ultimately diagnosed with ASD had concerns raised about their development but did not undergo the developmental evaluation necessary to start the intervention process in a timely manner. Less than half (42%) had an evaluation before age 3 and almost 40% did not have one until after age 4.

Sometimes children are initially diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and/or sensory processing issues but not an autism spectrum disorder. About 30-40% of children with ASD also have ADHD, and once the ADHD diagnosis is made, doctors often stop looking further and miss the autism. Being diagnosed initially with ADHD made children 30 times more likely not to get their ASD diagnosis until after the age of 6.

Finally, recent research suggests that some children may not develop autism traits until age 5 or later. Others may have mild symptoms at age 3 but don't meet the diagnosis criteria until they are older.

ASD treatment

While there is no cure for autism, there are interventions that can help children reach their full potential -- when they’re started early. These can include encouraging positive behaviors while discouraging negative ones, getting on the floor with the child to play, using visual cues like picture cards, and even learning to communicate through symbols. Occupational and sensory integration therapy can also help.

If you suspect your child might be having a developmental issue such as autism, call our office or click the button to book an appointment with Dr. Valencia, Micaela, or Megan today. The faster an evaluation and diagnosis are made, the sooner interventions can be started.

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