Most Children Diagnosed With Autism by Age 5

Autism diagnosis is most common around age 5 and most children with autism use services

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Early diagnosis of autism is important to ensure that children have access to the right services and interventions. New research summarizes the age most children are diagnosed and type of services used.

Most children were about the age of 5 when they were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Children in this study used services in their schools or communities, and about half of children with ASD used medication to treat symptoms.

"Talk to your child’s psychiatrist about her symptoms."

Lisa Colpe, PhD, MPH, and Bev Pringle, PhD, at the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) Division of Services and Intervention Research, along with other colleagues conducted over 4000 phone interviews with parents of children with ASD who were between 6 and 17 years old.

Researchers asked parents about the age of diagnosis, the person who provided the diagnosis, what services were being used by the family, and what medications their child had used.

They found that the median age of ASD diagnosis was 5.

Pediatricians and nurses were the most common clinicians providing a diagnosis for children who received an ASD diagnosis before the age of 5. Diagnosis with ASD after age 5 was mostly by psychologists and psychiatrists.

Of the children in this study, 90 percent used at least one service. Social skills training and speech or language therapy were the most common services used; three out of five children with ASD used at least one of these services.

More than half of the children of school age used at least one psychotropic medication, such as an antidepressant or a mood-stabilizer.

The results of this study were published on the NIMH website.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 6, 2012
Last Updated:
June 7, 2012