Objectives: To explore similarities and differences between diagnostic experiences of families who obtained diagnoses of ASD for their children before 30 months of age and families who obtained diagnoses later.
Methods: Participants were 29 parents/caregivers of children under 12 years of age with ASD (86% mothers), with a mean age of 33.8 years. Most had some college education or more (89.7%), and average family income was $66,249 (Canadian). Their children (82.8% boys) ranged in age from 25 to 77 months; 22 had diagnoses of Autistic Disorder, 5 had diagnoses of PDD-NOS, 1 had a diagnosis of Asperger’s Disorder, and 1 had a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Participants completed a questionnaire designed specifically for the study requesting demographic information and information about parents’ concerns and their diagnostic experiences.
Results: Parents of children diagnosed with ASD at or before 30 months (Early Group) became concerned about their children’s development at an average of 16 months, while parents of children diagnosed later (Later Group) became concerned at 25 months. The younger children were at parents’ initial concern, the younger they received their diagnoses. In the Early Group, 75% of parents were referred to the diagnosing clinician by speech and language pathologists or occupational therapists and 25% were referred by family physicians or paediatricians. Parents in the Later Group were referred to the diagnosing clinician by their paediatricians (53%) and by speech and language pathologists or occupational therapists (47%).
Conclusions: The earlier parents become concerned about their children’s development, the younger their children are likely to be when they receive diagnoses. Speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, and other professionals who come in contact with very young children on an ongoing basis may be in a position to influence parents toward seeking help about their concerns earlier from clinicians qualified to diagnose ASD. This emphasizes the importance of educating parents and community professionals about the early signs and symptoms of ASD. Data collection is ongoing.
See more of: Clinical Phenotype
See more of: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Phenotype