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Service and Treatment Use Among Children Diagnosed With Autism Spectrum Disorders

Zablotsky, Benjamin PhD*; Pringle, Beverly A. PhD; Colpe, Lisa J. PhD, MPH; Kogan, Michael D. PhD§; Rice, Catherine PhD; Blumberg, Stephen J. PhD*

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: February/March 2015 - Volume 36 - Issue 2 - p 98–105
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000127
Original Articles
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Objective: Children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) require substantial support to address not only core ASD symptoms but also a range of co-occurring conditions. This study explores treatment and service use among children with ASD with and without intellectual disability (ID) and parents' perception of unmet needs from these treatments.

Methods: Data were retrieved from a probability-based national sample of 2077 children diagnosed with ASD, ID, or both (ASD and ID). Weighted multivariate logistic regressions examined differences between diagnostic groups for current medication and service utilization with a subanalysis exploring differences among those with co-occurring psychiatric conditions. Additional modeling examined parents' perception of unmet needs.

Results: Children diagnosed with ASD and ID were significantly more likely to be receiving current medication and services when compared with children with ID only or ASD only. Children with a co-occurring psychiatric diagnosis, from all 3 diagnostic groups, were more likely to be receiving a current medication, but not more likely to be receiving a current service when compared with children without a co-occurring psychiatric diagnosis. Children with ASD and a co-occurring psychiatric diagnosis were significantly more likely to have parents who reported unmet needs when compared with parents of children with ASD without a co-occurring psychiatric diagnosis.

Conclusions: Children diagnosed with ASD and ID, especially those with a comorbid psychiatric condition, represent a vulnerable population with substantial rates of current service (98%) and medication (67%) usage, but despite these high rates, approximately 30% of parents report that their child's developmental needs are still not being met by their current treatment and services.

*National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hyattsville, MD;

Office for Research on Disparities and Global Mental Health, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD;

Division of Services and Intervention Research, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD;

§Office of Epidemiology and Research, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Rockville, MD;

National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA.

Address for reprints: Benjamin Zablotsky, PhD, National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3311 Toledo Rd, Room 2118, Hyattsville, MD 20782; e-mail: bzablotsky@cdc.gov.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

The findings and conclusions in this article are those of the authors are do not necessarily represent the views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Mental Health, or the Maternal and Child Health Bureau.

Received September , 2014

Accepted November , 2014

Copyright © 2015 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.