Autism Often Comes with Other Conditions

Autistic childrens condition changes over time and can be related to other conditions

(RxWiki News) For children with autism, the disorder often isn't the only thing they struggle with. Autism frequently goes hand in hand with other developmental or psychiatric conditions such as attention disorder, anxiety, speech delays or learning disabilities.

For these kids and their parents, autism is also a constantly changing condition; the disorder often morphs throughout the years and symptoms vary.

"Autistic children should be evaluated for other disorders."

At the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, researchers analyzed 1,366 children whose parents had reported their Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis. Led by Heather Close, Li-Ching Lee and Christopher N. Kaufmann, along with Andrew W. Zimmerman of Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, the team divided the children by age groups: three to five years old, six to 11 years old, and 12-17 years.

“Our study found that children with a current ASD are more likely to have co-occurring conditions compared to children who no longer have an ASD diagnosis,” said Close, the study’s lead author.

Lee added that clinicians need to recognize that co-existing conditions differ in children with a current ASD diagnosis, as opposed to past diagnosis. And researchers urged parents to have their autistic children evaluated for co-existing conditions for better intervention.

The parents were surveyed, and asked whether their child had a current ASD diagnosis or had a diagnosis in the past, but were no longer diagnosed as autistic. One-third to one-fourth of the kids had had an ASD diagnosis change. In the youngest age group, 25 percent had a change in diagnosis; with 33 percent change in the middle group and 35 percent in the adolescent group.

In addition to the changing diagnosis throughout time, researchers also found that across all the age groups, children who were currently diagnosed with ASD were more likely to have at least two co-occurring conditions compared to children who were no longer diagnosed.

In the youngest age group, those currently diagnosed as autistic were more likely to have moderate or severe developmental delay and disability. The middle and older age groups also reported more severe speech problems or anxiety disorders with a current diagnosis.

The findings will be published in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Review Date: 
January 26, 2012