Little national data exist regarding service use patterns for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) of varying severity. This study aimed to assess the relationship between parent-reported severity and use of educational and health care services.
Data from the 2011 Survey of Pathways to Diagnosis and Services were used to examine a nationally representative sample of 1420 US children aged 6 to 17 years with ASD, with or without developmental delay and intellectual disability. Weighted multivariable logistic regression assessed associations of parent-reported ASD severity and child sociodemographic characteristics with school-based therapy, non-school-based therapy, behavioral interventions, and specialty provider visits.
Higher parent-reported ASD severity was associated with increased likelihood of current use of school-based therapy (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 4.08, 95% confidence interval =1.85–8.98), non-school-based therapy (AOR = 3.60 [1.95–6.66]), and behavioral interventions (AOR = 2.30 [1.22–4.34]), as well as regular specialty provider visits (AOR = 2.99 [1.38–6.46]). Although rates of service use were generally highest among children with severe ASD, non-school-based therapy and behavioral interventions were only used by about half of children with severe ASD, and about 1 in 4 children with mild ASD were using none of the therapies asked about.
Parent-reported severity is associated with increased therapy and specialty provider service use among children with ASD. However, substantial variability exists in service use across levels of severity.