Is Earlier Better? The Relationship between Age When Starting Early Intervention and Outcomes for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Selective Review
ABSTRACT: Although the conventional wisdom is that “earlier is better” when it comes to intervention for children with ASD, it is not clear what evidence exists to support this notion. This review examined a group of studies that addressed outcomes for young children with ASD who started early intervention at a range of ages. The review was selective by including only papers that examined the age of initiation of treatment as well as baseline cognitive, language, or adaptive level and, in addition, employed a method to control for the covariance between early ability level and age of beginning intervention. Fourteen studies were identified and then compared on methods and outcomes. The support for “earlier is better” was mixed, but it was clear that complex relationships among predictor variables need to be explored in order to understand the role of age of starting early intervention for later outcomes.
Project description: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.
Project description:The development of effective screening methods for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in early childhood remains a public health priority for communities around the world. Little is known regarding the concurrence between parent concerns about ASD and formal ASD diagnostic methods. This study aimed to examine the relationships among a priori parental ASD concern, ADOS classification, and a physician specialist's diagnosis. One hundred and thirty-four toddlers (74% male; mean age = 31.8 months, SD 4.4) received an evaluation at a university center specializing in ASD and neurodevelopmental disorders. Correspondence between a priori parental ASD suspicion and physician diagnosis of ASD was 61% (p = 0.028). Correspondence between a priori parental suspicion of ASD and ADOS ASD classification was 57% (p = 0.483). Correspondence between ADOS classification and physician diagnosis of ASD was 88% (p = 0.001). Our results have implications for evaluations in low resource regions of the world where access to physician specialists may be limited; the high correspondence between ADOS classification and a physician specialist's diagnosis supports the use of trained ADOS evaluators, such as field health workers or early childhood educators, in a tiered screening process designed to identify those most in need of a specialist's evaluation. Our results also have implications for public health efforts to provide parent education to enable parents to monitor their child's development and share concerns with their providers. Parent awareness and expression of concern coupled with timely responses from providers may lead toward earlier identification of ASD, and other neurodevelopmental disorders, and hence, generate opportunities for earlier and more personalized intervention approaches, which in turn may help improve long-term outcomes. Empowering parents and community members to screen for ASD may be especially important in regions of the world where access to formal diagnosis is limited.
Project description:Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have 2-3 times increased healthcare utilization and annual costs once diagnosed, but little is known about their utilization patterns early in life. Quantifying their early health system utilization could uncover condition-specific health trajectories to facilitate earlier detection and intervention. Patients born 10/1/2006-10/1/2016 with???2 well-child visits within the Duke University Health System before age 1 were grouped as ASD, ADHD, ASD?+?ADHD, or No Diagnosis using retrospective billing codes. An additional comparison group was defined by later upper respiratory infection diagnosis. Adjusted odds ratios (AOR) for hospital admissions, procedures, emergency department (ED) visits, and outpatient clinic encounters before age 1 were compared between groups via logistic regression models. Length of hospital encounters were compared between groups via Mann-Whitney U test. In total, 29,929 patients met study criteria (ASD N?=?343; ADHD N?=?1175; ASD?+?ADHD N?=?140). ASD was associated with increased procedures (AOR?=?1.5, p?<?0.001), including intubation and ventilation (AOR?=?2.4, p?<?0.001); and outpatient specialty care, including physical therapy (AOR?=?3.5, p?<?0.001) and ophthalmology (AOR?=?3.1, p?<?0.001). ADHD was associated with increased procedures (AOR?=?1.41, p?<?0.001), including blood transfusion (AOR?=?4.7, p?<?0.001); hospital admission (AOR?=?1.60, p?<?0.001); and ED visits (AOR?=?1.58, p?<?0.001). Median length of stay was increased after birth in ASD (+?6.5 h, p?<?0.001) and ADHD (+?3.8 h, p?<?0.001), and after non-birth admission in ADHD (+?1.1 d, p?<?0.001) and ASD?+?ADHD (+?2.4 d, p?=?0.003). Each condition was associated with increased health system utilization and distinctive patterns of utilization before age 1. Recognizing these patterns may contribute to earlier detection and intervention.
Project description:PROBLEM/CONDITION:Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). PERIOD COVERED:2016. DESCRIPTION OF SYSTEM:The Early Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (Early ADDM) Network, a subset of the overall ADDM Network, is an active surveillance program that estimates ASD prevalence and monitors early identification of ASD among children aged 4 years. Children included in surveillance year 2016 were born in 2012 and had a parent or guardian who lived in the surveillance area in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, or Wisconsin, at any time during 2016. Children were identified from records of community sources including general pediatric health clinics, special education programs, and early intervention programs. Data from comprehensive evaluations performed by community professionals were abstracted and reviewed by trained clinicians using a standardized ASD surveillance case definition with criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). RESULTS:In 2016, the overall ASD prevalence was 15.6 per 1,000 (one in 64) children aged 4 years for Early ADDM Network sites. Prevalence varied from 8.8 per 1,000 in Missouri to 25.3 per 1,000 in New Jersey. At every site, prevalence was higher among boys than among girls, with an overall male-to-female prevalence ratio of 3.5 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 3.1-4.1). Prevalence of ASD between non-Hispanic white (white) and non-Hispanic black (black) children was similar at each site (overall prevalence ratio: 0.9; 95% CI = 0.8-1.1). The prevalence of ASD using DSM-5 criteria was lower than the prevalence using Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR) criteria at one of four sites that used criteria from both editions. Among sites where ?60% of children aged 4 years had information about intellectual disability (intelligence quotient ?70 or examiner's statement of intellectual disability documented in an evaluation), 53% of children with ASD had co-occurring intellectual disability. Of all children aged 4 years with ASD, 84% had a first evaluation at age ?36 months and 71% of children who met the surveillance case definition had a previous ASD diagnosis from a community provider. Median age at first evaluation and diagnosis for this age group was 26 months and 33 months, respectively. Cumulative incidence of autism diagnoses received by age 48 months was higher for children aged 4 years than for those aged 8 years identified in Early ADDM Network surveillance areas in 2016. INTERPRETATION:In 2016, the overall prevalence of ASD in the Early ADDM Network using DSM-5 criteria (15.6 per 1,000 children aged 4 years) was higher than the 2014 estimate using DSM-5 criteria (14.1 per 1,000). Children born in 2012 had a higher cumulative incidence of ASD diagnoses by age 48 months compared with children born in 2008, which indicates more early identification of ASD in the younger group. The disparity in ASD prevalence has decreased between white and black children. Prevalence of co-occurring intellectual disability was higher than in 2014, suggesting children with intellectual disability continue to be identified at younger ages. More children received evaluations by age 36 months in 2016 than in 2014, which is consistent with Healthy People 2020 goals. Median age at earliest ASD diagnosis has not changed considerably since 2014. PUBLIC HEALTH ACTION:More children aged 4 years with ASD are being evaluated by age 36 months and diagnosed by age 48 months, but there is still room for improvement in early identification. Timely evaluation of children by community providers as soon as developmental concerns have been identified might result in earlier ASD diagnoses, earlier receipt of evidence-based interventions, and improved developmental outcomes.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at the earliest age possible is important for initiating optimally effective intervention. In the United States the average age of diagnosis is 4 years. Identifying metabolic biomarker signatures of ASD from blood samples offers an opportunity for development of diagnostic tests for detection of ASD at an early age. OBJECTIVES:To discover metabolic features present in plasma samples that can discriminate children with ASD from typically developing (TD) children. The ultimate goal is to identify and develop blood-based ASD biomarkers that can be validated in larger clinical trials and deployed to guide individualized therapy and treatment. METHODS:Blood plasma was obtained from children aged 4 to 6, 52 with ASD and 30 age-matched TD children. Samples were analyzed using 5 mass spectrometry-based methods designed to orthogonally measure a broad range of metabolites. Univariate, multivariate and machine learning methods were used to develop models to rank the importance of features that could distinguish ASD from TD. RESULTS:A set of 179 statistically significant features resulting from univariate analysis were used for multivariate modeling. Subsets of these features properly classified the ASD and TD samples in the 61-sample training set with average accuracies of 84% and 86%, and with a maximum accuracy of 81% in an independent 21-sample validation set. CONCLUSIONS:This analysis of blood plasma metabolites resulted in the discovery of biomarkers that may be valuable in the diagnosis of young children with ASD. The results will form the basis for additional discovery and validation research for 1) determining biomarkers to develop diagnostic tests to detect ASD earlier and improve patient outcomes, 2) gaining new insight into the biochemical mechanisms of various subtypes of ASD 3) identifying biomolecular targets for new modes of therapy, and 4) providing the basis for individualized treatment recommendations.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The identification of an early biomarker for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) would improve the determination of risk, leading to earlier diagnosis and, potentially, earlier intervention and improved outcomes. METHODS:Data were generated from the Early Markers for Autism study, a population-based case-control study of prenatal and neonatal biomarkers of ASD. Newborn bloodspots of children with ASD (n = 370), children with developmental delay (n = 140), and general population (GP) controls (n = 378) were analyzed for 42 different immune markers using a Luminex multiplex platform. Comparisons of immune marker concentrations between groups were examined using logistic regression and partial least squares discriminant analysis. RESULTS:Children with ASD had significantly increased neonatal levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and IL-8 compared with GP controls. An increase in IL-8 was especially significant in the ASD group with early onset compared with the GP group, with an adjusted odds ratio of 1.97 (95% confidence interval, 1.39-2.83; p = .00014). In addition, children with ASD had significantly elevated levels of eotaxin-1, interferon-?, and IL-12p70 relative to children with developmental delay. We observed no significant differences in levels of immune markers between the developmental delay and GP groups. CONCLUSIONS:Elevated levels of some inflammatory markers in newborn bloodspots indicated a higher degree of immune activation at birth in children who were subsequently diagnosed with ASD. The data from this exploratory study suggest that with further expansion, the development of neonatal bloodspot testing for cytokine/chemokine levels might lead to the identification of biomarkers that provide an accurate assessment of ASD risk at birth.
Project description:Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a collection of neurodevelopmental disorders that are currently diagnosed solely on the basis of abnormal reciprocal language and social development as well as stereotyped behaviors. Without genetic or molecular markers for screening, individuals with ASD are typically not diagnosed before the age of 2, with milder cases diagnosed much later. Because early diagnosis is tantamount to early behavioral intervention which has been shown to improve individual outcomes, an objective biomarker test that can diagnose at-risk children perinatally is a medical imperative. The rapidly increasing prevalence of ASD in the United States (now estimated at 1 in 88 individuals) also makes early diagnosis and intervention a public health imperative. This article reviews recent genome-wide (genomic) approaches to the identification of disease markers that may be used not only for diagnosis of ASD, but also for the informed development of novel drugs that target specific core symptoms of ASD. Because of the heterogeneity of clinical manifestations associated with the ASD population, this review also addresses the importance of dividing individuals with ASD into clinically relevant subphenotypes in the quest to identify appropriate biomarkers.
Project description:The range of outcomes for young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and the early childhood factors associated with this diversity have implications for clinicians and scientists.This prospective study provided a unique opportunity to predict outcome 17 years later for a relatively large sample of children diagnosed with ASD at 2 years old. Diagnostic and psychometric instruments were administered between 2 and 19 with data from 2, 3, and 19 included in this study. Clinicians administered tests without knowledge of previous assessments whenever possible. Caregivers provided additional information through questionnaires.Significant intellectual disabilities at 19 were predicted by age 2 about 85% of the time from VIQ and NVIQ scores together, though prediction of young adult outcome for youths with average or higher intelligence was more complex. By 19, 9% of participants had largely overcome core difficulties associated with ASD and no longer retained a diagnosis. These youths with Very Positive Outcomes were more likely to have participated in treatment and had a greater reduction in repetitive behaviors between age 2 and 3 compared to other Cognitively Able youths (VIQ ?70) with ASD. Very Positive Outcome youths did not differ phenotypically from Cognitively Able ASD individuals at 2 but both groups differed from Cognitively Less Able individuals (VIQ <70).Those most at risk for intellectual disabilities and ASD can be reliably identified at an early age to receive comprehensive treatment. Findings also suggest that some cognitively able children with ASD who participate in early intervention have very positive outcomes, although replication with randomized, larger samples is needed. In order to improve understanding of very positive outcomes in ASD, future research will need to identify how variations in child characteristics and environmental factors contribute to the nature and timing of growth across individuals and areas of development.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) made before age 3 has been found to be remarkably stable in clinic- and community-ascertained samples. The stability of an ASD diagnosis in prospectively ascertained samples of infants at risk for ASD due to familial factors has not yet been studied, however. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends intensive surveillance and screening for this high-risk group, which may afford earlier identification. Therefore, it is critical to understand the stability of an ASD diagnosis made before age 3 in young children at familial risk. METHODS:Data were pooled across seven sites of the Baby Siblings Research Consortium. Evaluations of 418 later-born siblings of children with ASD were conducted at 18, 24, and 36 months of age and a clinical diagnosis of ASD or Not ASD was made at each age. RESULTS:The stability of an ASD diagnosis at 18 months was 93% and at 24 months was 82%. There were relatively few children diagnosed with ASD at 18 or 24 months whose diagnosis was not confirmed at 36 months. There were, however, many children with ASD outcomes at 36 months who had not yet been diagnosed at 18 months (63%) or 24 months (41%). CONCLUSIONS:The stability of an ASD diagnosis in this familial-risk sample was high at both 18 and 24 months of age and comparable with previous data from clinic- and community-ascertained samples. However, almost half of the children with ASD outcomes were not identified as being on the spectrum at 24 months and did not receive an ASD diagnosis until 36 months. Thus, longitudinal follow-up is critical for children with early signs of social-communication difficulties, even if they do not meet diagnostic criteria at initial assessment. A public health implication of these data is that screening for ASD may need to be repeated multiple times in the first years of life. These data also suggest that there is a period of early development in which ASD features unfold and emerge but have not yet reached levels supportive of a diagnosis.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by persistent deficits in social communication and interaction, and restrictive and repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities. This study aimed to analyze trends in ASD diagnosis and intervention in 20 years of data from the Beijing Stars and Rain Education Institute for Autism (SR), the first autism intervention center in mainland China, and from a recent survey of members of the Heart Alliance, an industry association of autism intervention centers in China. METHODS: We analyzed the registration data at the SR from 1993 to 2012 for a total of 2,222 children who had a parent-reported diagnosis of ASD and 612 of 'autistic tendencies'. Most of the children who were the primary focus of our analyses were age six and under. We also analyzed results of a survey we conducted in 2013 of 100 member centers of the Heart Alliance. Generalized Estimating Equations, multiple linear regression and the Mann-Whitney test were used for data analysis. Statistically significant findings are reported here. RESULTS: The number of hospitals where SR children received their diagnosis increased from several in the early 1990s to 276 at present. The proportion of 'autistic tendencies' diagnosis increased 2.04-fold from 1998 to 2012 and was higher for children diagnosed at a younger age. The mean age at first diagnosis of ASD or 'autistic tendencies' decreased by 0.27 years every decade. A higher level of parental education was statistically significantly associated with an earlier diagnosis of the child. The mean parental age at childbirth increased by about 1.48 years per decade, and the mean maternal age was 1.40 and 2.10 years higher than that in the national population censuses of 2000 and 2010, respectively. At the time of the survey 3,957 children with ASD were being trained at the 100 autism intervention centers. Ninety-seven of these centers opened after the year 2000. Economically underdeveloped regions are still underserved. CONCLUSIONS: This study revealed encouraging trends and remaining challenges in ASD diagnosis and intervention among children at the SR over the past 20 years and the 100 autism intervention centers in China at present.