A recent study has found that approximately one-fourth of children under the age of eight with autism go undiagnosed, according to an article on Tapinto. The study was published in the journal “Autism Research.”
Study co-author Walter Zahorodny, associate professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and director of the New Jersey Autism Study, said that while autism awareness has increased, it is still under-diagnosed, according to the article. He said this is particularly true for Black and Hispanic children.
During this study, the researchers looked at both the education and medical records of approximately 266,000 children who were eight years old in 2014, according to the article.
These records were used to determine how many of these children showed symptoms of autism without being clinically diagnosed, according to the article. Approximately 4,500 of these children were identified to have shown symptoms.
The study found that 25% of those identified were not officially diagnosed. Of that percentage, most of the children were Black or Hispanic males with issues in social skills, mental abilities and other activities of daily life.
“There may be various reasons for the disparity, from communication or cultural barriers between minority parents and physicians to anxiety about the complicated diagnostic process and fear of stigma,” Zahorodny said, according to the article. “Also, many parents whose children are diagnosed later often attribute their first concerns to a behavioral or medical issue rather than a developmental problem.”
By screening all toddlers, preschool and school-age children for autism, the gap in diagnosis could help be reduced, Zahorodny said, according to the article.
He also said that clinicians can use pictures and employ patient navigators to help overcome communication barriers, according to the article. This will help families better understand the process, test results and treatment recommendations.
Zahorodny also said that to help improve access to care, states should require insurance companies to cover early intervention services when a child is first said to be at risk, according to the article.