A Quarter Of Children With Autism Are Undiagnosed, Study Says

mbg Editorial Assistant By Eliza Sullivan
mbg Editorial Assistant
Eliza Sullivan is an editorial assistant at mindbodygreen. She received a B.S. journalism and a B.A. in english literature from Boston University.
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In the last two decades, the rate of children identified as having autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has increased from 1 in 150 to 1 in 59. Despite increased awareness, a new study from Rutgers University has found a quarter of children under 8 with autism go undiagnosed.

Published in Autism Research, the report also sought to identify factors that affect this lack of diagnosis by evaluating differences in demographic, individual, and service factors.

To find this out, the researchers cross-referenced children who met a "surveillance definition" of an ASD with children who had a clinical diagnosis. They found that one in four of the children qualified based on the surveillance definition but had no diagnosis.

"There may be various reasons for the disparity, from communication or cultural barriers between minority parents and physicians to anxiety about the complicated diagnostic process and fear of stigma," said Walter Zahorodny, Ph.D., a study co-author, associate professor at Rutgers Medical School, and director of the New Jersey Autism Study. 

The study surveyed 4,498 children from Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin and found that around 1,135 were not diagnosed. It was conducted with the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, which is funded by the CDC. According to the CDC, boys are four times more likely to be identified as having ASD than girls.

Children who were not already identified were more likely to be from minority households and to have fewer developmental problems than those with previous clinical diagnoses. The study says that all children who fit a surveillance definition should be provided services that assist with their specific needs.

The study recommends that more states should require insurance companies to cover early intervention services, which would help to alleviate the financial burden of families caring for ASD children. For children with ASD, previous studies have suggested that naturalistic interventions may help, while other research is seeking a way to detect autism before symptoms appear to better help children get the services they need.

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