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Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders Reliable in Toddler Years

Diagnostic stability was 0.50 at 12 to 13 months, increased to 0.79 and 0.83 by 14 and 16 months

MONDAY, May 6, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has high diagnostic stability, with stable diagnosis starting at 14 months of age, according to a study published online April 29 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Karen Pierce, Ph.D., from the University of California in San Diego, and colleagues examined the diagnostic stability of ASD in a large cohort of toddlers starting at age 12 months. A total of 2,241 toddlers were referred from the general population through a universal screening program in primary care or via community referral. Data were included for 1,269 toddlers.

The researchers found that the overall diagnostic stability for ASD was 0.84, which was higher than any other diagnostic group. Only 1.8 percent of toddlers who were initially considered to have ASD had a final diagnosis of typical development. Diagnostic stability of ASD was lowest within the youngest age band (12 to 13 months) at 0.50 and increased to 0.79 and 0.83 by 14 and 16 months, respectively (age bands of 12 versus 14 and 16 months: odds ratio, 4.25). Nearly one in four toddlers (23.8 percent) were not designated as having ASD at their first visit but were diagnosed at a later visit.

“Our findings suggest that ASD detection and diagnosis can reliably start as young as 14 months,” the authors write. “Our next challenge is to determine best treatments and the degree to which such early engagement benefits toddlers and their families in the long term.”

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