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Research Finds a Possibility of Slow Onset Autism

Growing research for autism is inspiring some families and physicians to hope for an early diagnosis. Though a diagnosis can be reached as early as 24-months, the current average age is 4 years old.

It isn’t the same across the board when considering children at risk for autism. Some children could begin to show signs and symptoms as early as 6-months old and can be screened at 24-months old to get a full diagnosis. Others, however, may take longer and go unidentified during the initial screenings.

Some children aren’t identified with autism in their initial screenings and are cleared without reconsideration. A new study suggests that some children may not have symptoms right away but could develop them later.

The lead researcher of this study, Sally Ozonoff, Endowed Professor of Research in Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at University of California, Davis, believes this could better explain why some children are evaluated multiple times over the years before a diagnosis is reached.

Her findings came along with a reminder for clinicians. The general population likely includes people on the autism syndrome spectrum that never had this reconsideration. Older children who may be at risk should be evaluated.

“We tend to think if [an autism diagnosis] didn’t happen early on, it’s not there --- and this is saying that’s not true,” says Catherine Lord, Professor of Psychiatry & Education at University of California, Los Angeles.

The study examined children who had older siblings on the spectrum. In the researchers’ nomenclature, these “baby sibs” are considered a high-risk. The study’s sample included 483 baby sibs and an additional 263 babies in the controlling condition.

These children were evaluated at age of 3, a standard time to be evaluated for ASD, and then again between the age of 5 and 9. From early analysis, clinicians were able to diagnose 99 children with autism. In the later evaluations, 14 children, including one from the control group, were diagnosed with autism.

Although it’s a small portion, Professor Ozonoff asserts the conclusion is significant. “The fact that they occurred at all surprised us,” she says.

In analyzing the data, Professor Ozonoff and her team found that half of the children in their study, which were diagnosed late, yielded test results far below the threshold of a diagnosis. By the time children grew up, these scores increased, which in turn resulted in putting children on the spectrum.

This finding seems to point out to some children that experience a late-onset autism. A study conducted in 2015 showed similar results in Israel, but Professor Ozonoff has reservation to generalize. Assessments still need to be fine-tuned to ensure that the right traits are being evaluated as early as possible.

For more information on this study, visit the source of this post: Spectrum News

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