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Early autism diagnoses on the rise

On Behalf of | May 17, 2019 | Guardianships & Conservatorships |

At & , LLC, we regularly advise and counsel parents of children with special needs, including autism. When a child is diagnosed with a developmental disability like autism, the parents should consult a lawyer experienced in legal issues related to people with disabilities.

Those issues may relate to life planning, estate planning, financial management, trusts, residential placement, guardianship and conservatorship, abuse prevention and legal remedies for abuse, health insurance, and long-term care insurance as well as public benefits like Supplemental Security Income and other Social Security-based benefits, Medicare and Medicaid, known as Health First Colorado in our state.

Young children and autism by the numbers

According to Disability Scoop, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, known as the CDC, published data in early April showing that one in 59 4-year-old children in 2014 had an autism diagnosis, up from one in 75 in 2010. The CDC monitored children at sites in seven states, including Colorado.

The CDC report (available through a link at the Disability Scoop article linked to above) notes that data gathering and diagnostic techniques may have varied some among the locations, but numbers showed consistently more boys than girls satisfying diagnostic criteria. In Colorado in 2014, there were 5.2 boys per one girl of children with the diagnosis at age 4, for example.

Experts expressed concern that rates of early detection are not improving. Disability Scoop cited one professor of pediatrics as saying that kids who are evaluated “around their second birthday” tend to have better responses to treatment than children diagnosed at older ages.

Early autism screening recommended

A medical study just published in JAMA Pediatrics, a publication of the American Medical Association, concluded that professional screening of children for autism at 14 and 16 months that resulted in a diagnosis was highly reliable, since the diagnosis was the same at re-evaluation a couple of years later at the rates of 79% and 83%, respectively, reports Disability Scoop in an article that links to the study.

By contrast, diagnoses at 12 to 13 months were less reliable, with only half still meeting diagnostic criteria a few years later.

The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends autism screening between 18 and 24 months. Based on the new study, parents of toddlers may want to discuss screening at an earlier age with their pediatricians since early intervention and treatment are likely beneficial.