Objective: Past research is inconsistent in the stability of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnoses. The authors therefore sought to examine the proportion of children identified from a population-based surveillance system that had a change in classification from ASD to non-ASD and factors associated with such changes. Methods: Children with a documented age of first ASD diagnosis noted in surveillance records by a community professional (n = 1392) were identified from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. Children were considered to have a change in classification if an ASD was excluded after the age of first recorded ASD diagnosis. Child and surveillance factors were entered into a multivariable regression model to determine factors associated with diagnostic change. Results: Only 4% of our sample had a change in classification from ASD to non-ASD noted in evaluation records. Factors associated with change in classification from ASD to non-ASD were timing of first ASD diagnosis at 30 months or younger, onset other than developmental regression, presence of specific developmental delays, and participation in a special needs classroom other than autism at 8 years of age. Conclusions: Our results found that children with ASDs are likely to retain an ASD diagnosis, which underscores the need for continued services. Children diagnosed at 30 months or younger are more likely to experience a change in classification from ASD to non-ASD than children diagnosed at 31 months or older, suggesting earlier identification of ASD symptoms may be associated with response to intervention efforts or increased likelihood for overdiagnosis.
From the *National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA; †Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD; ‡Department of Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC.
Received September 2011; accepted March 2012.
This work was supported by the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network.
Disclosure: C.E.R. receives payments for a limited number of trainings on autism assessment. The other authors declare no conflict of interest.
The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Address for reprints: Lisa D. Wiggins, PhD, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NCBDDD/CDC, 1600 Clifton Road, Mail Stop E-86, Atlanta, GA 30033; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.