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Egenis · News

Questions about drive to diagnose autism

01.12.2011

Introduction

A new study queries the drive to diagnose very young children with autism

Story

A newly published study led by Egenis researcher Dr Ginny Russell raises questions about the drive to diagnose children with autism very early in their lives.

‘Social and behavioural outcomes in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders:a longitudinal cohort study’ is released online this week by the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

The researchers set out to compare social and behavioural outcomes between children formally diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) with those of children who displayed autistic traits at preschool age, but remained undiagnosed as teenagers.

“Essentially, we found that children with ASD diagnoses were more impaired as teenagers that those in the comparison group on a range of measures of autistic-like behaviour,” explained Dr Russell. “Children who had been diagnosed with ASD (all but one of whom at the age of 12 were receiving a high level of support in school) were more impaired in social communication, and demonstrated more restricted interests and ritualistic behaviours as teenagers than those without a diagnosis.”

The authors suggest that their study provides evidence that it may be difficult to distinguish preschool age children who exhibit autistic-like symptoms but improve, from those who go on to develop lifelong impairment. They conclude: “Although our study provides no concrete evidence of any negative effect from diagnosis, perhaps a ‘precautionary principle’ could be applied to diagnosing ASD in very young children.”

Russell, G., Golding, J., Norwich, B., Emond, A., Ford, T. and Steer C., ‘Social and behavioural outcomes in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders: a longitudinal cohort study’, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

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