5 Reasons Why Autism Diagnosis Is Delayed

Sep 01, 2022
5 Reasons Why Autism Diagnosis Is Delayed
About 1 in 44 American children have autism. Unfortunately, many children don’t get an early diagnosis, which helps them function better with this developmental disorder. Here’s a look at some common reasons why this diagnosis is sometimes delayed.

If you’re concerned your child may have autism, you’re not alone. About 1 in 44 US children have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a neurological, developmental disorder.

This complicated disorder doesn’t mean your child is ill. But it does mean your child’s brain works differently from most others. And because autism occurs on a spectrum, everybody with the disorder is different and has different needs.

At The Center for Advanced Pediatrics in Darien and Norwalk, Connecticut, our providers offer specialized behavioral health services, including diagnosing and managing ASD. Unfortunately, many children with ASD don’t get diagnosed early—even when they have signs of the disorder.

In fact, while 85% of children eventually diagnosed with ASD have notations in their medical records regarding early (before age 3) symptoms, only 42% of children get the comprehensive evaluation needed for diagnosis by age 3.

This delay is problematic, as early intervention helps promote better functioning. We’ve curated this guide explaining five common reasons why diagnosing autism is often delayed and how we help your child get the care they need.

1. Exhibiting few signs early 

Most often, parents of children with autism notice differences in their child from a young age—sometimes as early as a few months old, and almost always by ages 2-3. However, signs and symptoms of ASD vary greatly. 

This means some children don’t show obvious ASD signs until they’re a little older. While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends developmental screening for early ASD detection at ages 18 and 24 months, if your child doesn’t show symptoms until later, the diagnosis could be missed.

2. Wait-and-see attitude

There’s no doubt that kids develop at different rates. While developmental milestones take into account the average ages most kids reach them, the truth is some kids without ASD may miss a milestone or two, then catch up without any issues. 

As a result, parents and pediatricians often want to give kids a chance to develop at their own rate. This wait-and-see attitude may cause some cases of ASD to get a delayed diagnosis. 

If your child misses a milestone and you have observations or concerns related to autism, always speak up. At The Center for Advanced Pediatrics, we recognize the key role parents play in helping diagnose autism spectrum disorder.

3. Widely varying symptoms

Because ASD symptoms occur on a spectrum, there is much variety in the signs that indicate a problem. In addition, symptoms vary greatly in their severity, making diagnosis even more challenging. For example, high-functioning ASD kids are less likely to be diagnosed early.

What’s more, some children with ASD also have other disorders, which can delay the diagnosis of autism further. For example, when a child with ASD also has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), they may be misdiagnosed with severe ADHD. 

4. Socioeconomic factors

Children in families with significant socioeconomic struggles typically receive a later diagnosis for ASD. This is due to a mix of factors, including lack of access to care, difficulties coordinating services, lack of family support, and more. 

5. Parental denial or shame

Some parents respond with denial. They may feel ashamed at the thought of their child having a developmental disorder like autism, or ashamed of its symptoms, such as a lack of social skills. 

When this happens, parents may not be willing to have their child undergo a developmental assessment for ASD, which can delay diagnosis. This is unfortunate since early intervention helps reduce ASD symptoms and improves functioning for many children. 

How we help diagnose and manage pediatric autism

Because autism is a complex disorder, the diagnostic procedure isn’t always simple. At The Center for Advanced Pediatrics, our pediatric behavioral health team assesses your child holistically to accurately diagnose their condition. 

Your Center for Advanced Pediatrics provider works with you to ensure you understand how to monitor your child for important developmental milestones. Missing one or more of these may indicate a developmental issue.

We also administer developmental testing, taking into account your observations, results from developmental screenings, psychological testing, and speech and language evaluations. 

In some cases, your provider may order genetic testing or additional neurological evaluations to rule out other disorders. Keep in mind there isn’t one standard treatment for ASD. 

At The Center for Advanced Pediatrics, we offer a variety of services and treatments that may benefit your autistic child, including:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Medication management services
  • Coordinated care with teachers, school, and other caregivers

We also work with you to connect you with other beneficial treatments, which may include occupational therapy, physical therapy, social skills training, speech-language therapy, nutritional therapy, and help for parents/caregivers. 

If you have concerns regarding this developmental disability, schedule an appointment online or over the phone at The Center for Advanced Pediatrics office in Darien or Norwalk, Connecticut, nearest you. 

See information on how to move with a child who has autism spectrum disorder HERE