(Reuters Health) – Approximately one in 40 American children has been diagnosed with autism, and a national survey of parents suggests that these children have more difficulty obtaining mental health services than young people with other emotional or behavioral problems.
For the study, researchers analyzed data from parent surveys for approximately 43,000 children aged 3 to 17 years from the 2016 National Child Health Survey. Overall, 2.5 percent of parents reported that their child received a diagnosis of autism and still had the disorder, which translates to approximately 1.5 million children across the country.
According to Pediatrics researchers, parents of children with autism were 44 percent more likely to report experiencing much hardship to receive the mental health treatment needed for their children than parents of children with other emotional, developmental, and developmental disorders. of behavior
"Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were also less likely to have a medical home, obtain the necessary referrals and obtain coordination of needed care compared to children with other emotional, behavioral and developmental disorders," said the study's lead author, Michael Kogan, of the Health Resources and Services Administration in Rockville, Maryland.
"The findings were even stronger when comparing children with ASD with all other children," Kogan said by email.
Many US pediatricians UU They perform autism screenings in children between 18 and 30 months of age.
The first symptoms of autism may vary, but may include repetitive behaviors such as fluttering of the hands or body swaying, extreme resistance to changes in routine and, sometimes, aggression or self-injury. Behavioral, educational, speech and language therapy can help reduce the severity of autism symptoms in some children.
The current study is based on one of several different surveys used to estimate the rates of autism in the US. UU Another recent study in JAMA used different data and found that 2.8 percent of US children. UU From 3 to 17 years old they had autism spectrum disorders.
However, based on another set of data, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that approximately 1 in every 59 children has autism.
According to the researchers, some of the recent studies on autism suggest that diagnostic rates may be declining after climbing steadily for years.
As with other studies, the current analysis found that autism is more common in children, who were about 3.5 times more likely to be diagnosed than girls.
Diagnostic rates were also higher among low-income families compared to wealthy families and among premature infants compared to full-term infants.
Overall, about 27 percent of children with autism used medication for symptoms and 64 percent had received behavioral therapy in the past 12 years, the current study found.
Although parents of children with autism reported difficulties in obtaining treatment, children with this diagnosis were more likely than children with other emotional, behavioral, or developmental conditions to have seen a specialist, to have received mental health counseling or have a special education or early intervention plan.
One limitation of the study is that differences in the way children with autism counted and how parents got involved make it difficult to compare findings with other data to determine if autism rates may be changing, the authors note. .
"I think the message to take home is not necessarily new, but it's important: autism spectrum disorder is a common condition that deserves early detection and treatment," said Dr. Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele, a psychiatry researcher at Columbia University in New York. City that did not participate in the study.
"Parents who are concerned about the development of their children should discuss their concerns with their pediatrician and should not hesitate to seek a specific evaluation for autism spectrum disorder," Veenstra-VanderWeele said by email.
Often, parents are the first to detect unusual childhood development and raise concerns about the potential for autism, said Geraldine Dawson, director of the Center for Autism at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
"If parents notice that their child is not making eye contact, is missing gestures such as pointing or has slow language to develop language, they should talk with their pediatrician or other health care provider," said Dawson, who did not participate in the study. study. by email.
SOURCE: bit.ly/2TNXFJx Pediatrics, online November 26, 2018.