HealthDay News — Delays in diagnosing and treating autism often occur when doctors ignore parents’ concerns about their child’s early development, a new study suggests.

Katharine Zuckerman, MD, of Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, compared the medical records of more than 1,400 children with autism against those of 2,100 children with other forms of delayed intellectual development.

For children who later turned out to have an autism spectrum disorder, doctors and other health care providers were 14% less likely to have taken action — such as conducting developmental tests or referring the child to a specialist — in response to parents’ concerns about autism, compared to children from the other group.

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The researchers also found that health care providers were more likely to tell parents of children with autism that the child will “grow out of it,” the researchers reported in The Journal of Pediatrics.

In the study, parents often had concerns about autism when their children were about 2, and discussed these concerns with a health care provider when their children were an average of 2.3 years old.

However, children with autism in the study were typically not diagnosed with the disorder until about age 5 — nearly 3 years after parents first expressed their concerns to health care providers, the study found.

“The behavior of health care providers is likely a very important factor in delayed autism identification,” Zuckerman said in a journal news release.


Zuckerman KE, et al. Parental Concerns, Provider Response, and Timeliness of Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnosis. J Pediatr. 2015; doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2015.03.007.