If your child has received a diagnosis of autism, you probably have several questions about what to do next, where to find services to help your child, and what you can do to help your child at home. You may even question the diagnosis and wonder if it could be something else. Does your child avoid eye contact because they’re on the autism spectrum, or are they simply very shy? Are your child’s odd fascinations a symptom of autism, or simply a quirky personality trait? If you find yourself asking these questions, rest assured that you’re not alone.
How Often is Autism Misdiagnosed?
In 2012, researchers ran a study and tracked 1,400 children who were diagnosed with autism. By the time the children reached 8 years of age, 61 of these children were no longer diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD. Researchers noticed that most of the children who lost their diagnosis of ASD had been diagnosed before they were only 30 months old.
However, almost all of these children who were no longer classified as having ASD were diagnosed with at least one other condition, such as a language delay or ADHD. Dr. Blumberg, who conducted a study on older children with autism states: "Our study suggests over-diagnosis of ASD may occur and may be more common than expected. But our study also shows that some children are said to have lost the diagnosis due to treatment or maturity.”
Conditions That May Be Mistaken for Autism
Professor and psychologist Tony Attwood says, ““I would say that between 10% and 25% of children diagnosed with ASD will not be classed as having the disorder as adults.” This can be due to early intervention or treatment, or it could have been a different condition than autism all along. In young children, potential signs of ASD may overlap with symptoms of other conditions and lead to misdiagnosis. Some conditions can include:
How to Approach a New Diagnosis
Dr. Epstein, a neuropsychologist and specialist in diagnosing ASD, believes that doctors need to have the full picture of the child’s behaviors and symptoms before making a diagnosis. She thinks the process should be a comprehensive assessment including:
What to Do After Receiving a Diagnosis
If your child is found to have ASD, ask your child’s doctor about early intervention programs. These programs will help your child receive the help they need, and are usually highly successful in teaching children useful skills such as communicating with others, finding coping skills, and managing their behaviors. For more guidance on ASD-related issues, feel free to reach out to Dr. Syras Derksen.
By: Dr. Syras Derksen