There has been a major increase in the incidence of autism over the last 20 years, according to a recent study, however, there are still many children who have autistic traits that are never diagnosed clinically.

In recent studies these undiagnosed children have been included in estimates of how many children have autism spectrum disorder, or an ASD (which includes both autism and Asperger’s syndrome). Such studies have estimated that one in every hundred children has an ASD.

A study published in a recent issue of The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, published by Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken, NJ, found that a large number of undiagnosed children displayed autistic traits: repetitive behaviors, impairments in social interaction, and difficulties with communication. These traits were at levels comparable to the traits displayed by children who held a clinical diagnosis (all diagnosed between years 1 and 12). However, the undiagnosed children were not deemed eligible for extra support at school or by specialized health services.

"ASD diagnosis currently holds the key to unlocking intervention from school systems and health programs," said Ginny Russell, the lead researcher of the study. "Perhaps these resources should be extended and available for children who show autistic impairments but remain undiagnosed." Russell points out that the study also shows that there is a gender bias in diagnosing children with ASDs—boys are more likely to receive a diagnosis than girls, even when they display equally severe symptoms.

"Identification of children with the same level of impairment as children on the autistic spectrum, and analysis of their service use."
Ginny Russell, et al
The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Published Online: March 22, 2010 (DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2010.02233.x).

[Source: The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry]