ADHD News & Research

New Study: Autism May Be Accurately Diagnosed in Children as Young as 14 Months

Early screening for autism typically begins between 18 and 24 months of age. New data suggests that children as young as 14 months may be accurately evaluated and diagnosed, creating opportunities for earlier treatment interventions.

May 7, 2019

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is diagnostically stable in toddlers as young as 14 months, according to a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics1. Previously, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that ASD screenings in toddlers occur between 18 and 24 months of age; this study suggests that accurate evaluations may occur even earlier.

The new recommendation was based on a cohort study of 1,269 toddlers who received their first diagnostic evaluation for symptoms of autism between the ages of 12 and 36 months. Based on the results of subsequent evaluations, the researchers found that autism symptoms generally stabilize at 14 months of age, leading to accurate initial diagnoses.

Among this study population, the overall diagnostic stability for ASD was 0.84 — 84% of toddlers who were initially diagnosed with autism during their first doctor evaluation retained the diagnosis at 3 or 4 years old. Twenty-three percent of toddlers were not diagnosed with ASD at their first visit but ended up being diagnosed at a later visit.

This discovery that ASD may be diagnosed several months earlier than previously reported is important, in part, because the brain of a 14 month old is highly sensitive to environmental impacts. An earlier diagnosis means more opportunities to test the impact of early-age ASD treatment.

“Our findings suggest that ASD detection and diagnosis can reliably start as young as 14 months,” wrote the researchers. “Our next challenge is to determine best treatments and the degree to which such early engagement benefits toddlers and their families in the long term.”

Footnotes

Pierce K, Gazestani VH, Bacon E, et al. Evaluation of the Diagnostic Stability of the Early Autism Spectrum Disorder Phenotype in the General Population Starting at 12 Months. JAMA Pediatrics (Apr. 2019). https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2732144?guestAccessKey=ed9085a6-2b9b-471c-9ac3 2584565017fb&utm_source=For_The_Media&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=ftm_links&utm_content=tfl&utm_term=042919

Updated on May 16, 2019

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