A new report from the Center for Health Statistics claims that 13% of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder lose their diagnosis in later tests. The study is the first to examine a large, nationally representative sample of children.
One in 68 children in the United States is believed to have autism spectrum disorder. That number has jumped significantly (by 30%) from the one in 88 children believed to have autism in 2012. This recent discovery of the significant diagnosis reversal in autism cases may just have the answer that has eluded doctors and scientists as to why the autism rate has increased so dramatically.
Researchers believe that some children who are handed an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis may actually be struggling with other issues, such as development delays or attention disorders. The study went on to show that in the case of a diagnosis reversal, 74% of parents believed that it was due to new information rather than the disorder being “cured.” This could be a result of a child’s social skills or language abilities that had previously been lacking.
The reason for the reversals may be due to how children are screened for autism. Often times pediatricians use developmental screening tests on children, regardless of if there are any preexisting problems or not. Other reasons for the over-diagnoses may be due to an increase in autism awareness and having nonspecialists making the diagnoses.
“Better diagnosis occurring, as well as greater awareness of signs of autism being known, is also leading to more people being diagnosed,” president and CEO of the Autism Society Scott Badesch said. He agrees with the study, and also believes that more research will need to be conducted in order to confirm that over-diagnosis is one cause for the increase.
More research will need to be done to determine how common over-diagnosis is among autism patients. However, the significant information that can be taken from this study is that a diagnosis can change as a child gets older and as the doctors learn more about the child.