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Study: 1 in 4 Kids With Autism May Be Undiagnosed

A new study suggests that one in four children under age 8 with autism spectrum disorder, most of them black or Hispanic, are undiagnosed.

For the study, researchers from Rutgers University in New Jersey looked at the education and medical records of 266,000 children who were 8 years old in 2014. The team sought to determine how many of the children who had presented with symptoms of the disorder were not clinically diagnosed or receiving services.

Of the nearly 4,500 children identified, 25 percent were not diagnosed. Most were black or Hispanic males with deficits in mental abilities, social skills and activities of daily living who were not considered disabled.

“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,” said study co-author Dr. Walter Zahorodny, an associate professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and director of the New Jersey Autism Study.

“Also, many parents whose children are diagnosed later often attribute their first concerns to a behavioral or medical issue rather than a developmental problem.”

Screening all toddlers, preschool and school-age children for autism could help reduce the disparities in diagnosis, Zahorodny said. In addition, clinicians can overcome communication barriers by using pictures and/or employing patient navigators (health professionals who can help families understand the diagnosis process, test results and treatment recommendations).

Further, states can help improve access to care by requiring insurance companies to cover early intervention services when a child is first determined to be at risk rather than waiting for a diagnosis, he said.

One in 59 children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with ASD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The research was conducted through the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, a surveillance program funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that tracks the prevalence of the developmental disorder in 11 states: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

The findings are published in the journal Autism Research.

Source: Rutgers University

Study: 1 in 4 Kids With Autism May Be Undiagnosed

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2020). Study: 1 in 4 Kids With Autism May Be Undiagnosed. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 18 Jan 2020 (Originally: 18 Jan 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 18 Jan 2020
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