Co-Occurring Conditions Impact Change in Autism Disorders

Distinct patterns of co-occurring psychiatric and neurodevelopmental conditions exist by age

MONDAY, Jan. 23 (HealthDay News) -- For children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the presence of co-occurring neurodevelopmental and psychiatric conditions is associated with a change in ASD diagnosis, and these conditions vary with the age of the child, according to a study published online Jan. 23 in Pediatrics.

Heather A. Close, from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and colleagues analyzed data from 1,366 children with a parent-reported current or past but not current (PBNC) ASD diagnosis from the National Survey of Children's Health 2007 data set. Children were grouped across three developmental stages: young children (aged 3 to 5 years), children (aged 6 to 11 years), and adolescents (aged 12 to 17 years). The association of co-occurring conditions and change in diagnosis of ASD was investigated.

The researchers found that co-occurring conditions distinguish groups currently diagnosed with an ASD from groups with a PBNC ASD diagnosis. For young children, current moderate or severe learning disability and current moderate or severe developmental delay were associated with current ASD. Past speech problems, current moderate or severe anxiety, and past hearing problems were associated with current ASD in children. For adolescents, current moderate or severe speech problems, current mild seizure or epilepsy, and past hearing problems were associated with current ASD.

"The presence of co-occurring psychiatric and neurodevelopmental conditions [is] associated with a change in ASD diagnosis," the authors write. "Questions remain as to whether changes in diagnosis of an ASD are due to true etiologic differences or shifts in diagnostic determination."

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