Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) come with several neurodevelopmental signs and symptoms which overlap other conditions – it is possible that some early ASD diagnoses are wrong, especially among children who no longer meet the criteria for ASD as they get older, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health wrote in the journal Pediatrics. The authors add that it is not easy for doctors to diagnose between several possibilities early in life.

Andrew W. Zimmerman, MD. and team set out to determine what the relationship might be between co-occurring conditions and changes in ASD diagnoses. They gathered information from the National Survey of Children’s Health 2007, and found that those who still had a diagnosis of ASD tended to have either severe or moderate learning disability or developmental delays, compared to those whose initial ASD diagnosis was changed when they got older. The authors were comparing children who had had a diagnosis of ASD at age 3 to 5 years with the same children when they were older who still had an ASD diagnosis, and those who did not.

Those aged 6-11 years with a current ASD diagnosis – these patients were more likely at an earlier age to have had a speech difficulty, or/and severe or moderate anxiety, compared to their counterparts whose diagnoses subsequently changed.

Those aged 12-17 years with a current ASD diagnosis – these patients were found to be more likely to have severe or moderate speech problems or (mild) epilepsy (seizures) compared to those who no longer have an ASD diagnosis.

Hearing problems – those with past hearing problems are more likely to still have an ASD diagnosis later on, compared to those who did not have hearing problems, the authors added.

Multiple co-occurring conditions – those with multiple co-occurring conditions when they were small are more likely today to still have an ASD diagnosis, compared to the other children. Multiple in this text means at least two.

In an Abstract in the same journal, the authors concluded:

“These findings suggest that the presence of co-occurring psychiatric and neurodevelopmental conditions are associated with a change in ASD diagnosis. Questions remain as to whether changes in diagnosis of an ASD are due to true etiologic differences or shifts in diagnostic determination.”

Written by Christian Nordqvist