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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

ASD Diagnosis May Be Stable as Early as 14 Months

Karen Pierce and colleagues have an article at JAMA Pediatrics titled "Evaluation of the Diagnostic Stability of the Early Autism Spectrum Disorder Phenotype in the General Population Starting at 12 Months." Key points:
  • Question Is an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis stable by 18 months, the earliest age of American Academy of Pediatrics recommended screening?
  • Findings In a cohort study of 1269 toddlers with and without autism spectrum disorder who received their first diagnostic evaluation between 12 and 36 months, overall stability of an autism spectrum diagnosis was 0.84, which was higher than in other groups.
  • Meaning Accurate diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder at earlier than 18 months is feasible, and there may be opportunities to test the usefulness of autism spectrum disorder treatment at an early age.
  • Importance Universal early screening for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in primary care is becoming increasingly common and is believed to be a pivotal step toward early treatment. However, the diagnostic stability of ASD in large cohorts from the general population, particularly in those younger than 18 months, is unknown. Changes in the phenotypic expression of ASD across early development compared with toddlers with other delays are also unknown.
  • Objectives To examine the diagnostic stability of ASD in a large cohort of toddlers starting at 12 months of age and to compare this stability with that of toddlers with other disorders, such as developmental delay.
  • Design, Setting, and Participants In this prospective cohort study performed from January 1, 2006, to December 31, 2018, a total of 2241 toddlers were referred from the general population through a universal screening program in primary care or community referral. Eligible toddlers received their first diagnostic evaluation between 12 and 36 months of age and had at least 1 subsequent evaluation.
  • Exposures Diagnosis was denoted after each evaluation visit as ASD, ASD features, language delay, developmental delay, other developmental issue, typical sibling of an ASD proband, or typical development.
  • Main Outcomes and Measures Diagnostic stability coefficients were calculated within 2-month age bands, and logistic regression models were used to explore the associations of sex, age, diagnosis at first visit, and interval between first and last diagnosis with stability. Toddlers with a non-ASD diagnosis at their first visit diagnosed with ASD at their last were designated as having late-identified ASD.
  • Results Among the 1269 toddlers included in the study (918 [72.3%] male; median age at first evaluation, 17.6 months [interquartile range, 14.0-24.4 months]; median age at final evaluation, 36.2 months [interquartile range, 33.4-40.9 months]), the overall diagnostic stability for ASD was 0.84 (95% CI, 0.80-0.87), which was higher than any other diagnostic group. Only 7 toddlers (1.8%) initially considered to have ASD transitioned into a final diagnosis of typical development. Diagnostic stability of ASD within the youngest age band (12-13 months) was lowest at 0.50 (95% CI, 0.32-0.69) but increased to 0.79 by 14 months and 0.83 by 16 months (age bands of 12 vs 14 and 16 years; odds ratio, 4.25; 95% CI, 1.59-11.74). A total of 105 toddlers (23.8%) were not designated as having ASD at their first visit but were identified at a later visit.
  • Conclusions and Relevance The findings suggest that an ASD diagnosis becomes stable starting at 14 months of age and overall is more stable than other diagnostic categories, including language or developmental delay. After a toddler is identified as having ASD, there may be a low chance that he or she will test within typical levels at 3 years of age. This finding opens the opportunity to test the impact of very early-age treatment of ASD.