Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
aaa print

Co-Existing Conditions May Explain Why Autism Diagnosis Can Change

1/23/2012  

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are more likely to have a co-occurring neurodevelopmental or psychiatric condition, such as a learning disability or depression. Differentiating between these diagnoses can be challenging, and some children originally diagnosed with ASD no longer meet the criteria for an ASD diagnosis as they grow older. 

In the study, "Co-occurring Conditions and Change in Diagnosis in Autism Spectrum Disorders," in the February 2012 Pediatrics (published online Jan. 23), researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health examined the relationship between co-occurring conditions and changes in diagnosis of ASD. Using data from the National Survey of Children's Health 2007, study authors found the type of co-occurring conditions was dependent on the age of the child. Young children (aged 3-5 years) with a current ASD diagnosis were more likely to have a moderate or severe learning disability or developmental delay compared to children with a past but not current ASD diagnosis. In children ages 6-11, those with a current ASD diagnosis were more likely to have had a past speech problem or current moderate or severe anxiety compared to children with a past but not current ASD diagnosis. Among adolescents (aged 12-17), those with a current ASD diagnosis were more likely to have moderate or severe speech problems or mild seizures or epilepsy compared to children with a past but not current ASD diagnosis. Both children and adolescents with a current ASD diagnosis were less likely to have had past hearing problems than those with a past but not current ASD diagnosis. In all age groups, children with a current ASD diagnosis were more likely to have two or more co-occurring conditions compared to children with a past but not current ASD diagnosis. 

The study results suggest some co-occurring conditions may, in part, lead to a change in an ASD diagnosis, though the mechanisms underlying this change remain unclear.

###

 The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.