Timeliness of autism spectrum disorder diagnosis and use of services among u.s. elementary school-aged children

Katharine Zuckerman, Olivia Jasmine Lindly, Alison Elizabeth Chavez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Objective: This study assessed the relationship of timeliness of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis with current use of ASD-related services in a nationally representative sample of U.S. children. Methods: The Centers for Disease Control's (CDC's) Survey of Pathways to Diagnosis and Services was used to assess experiences of 722 children ages six to 11 with ASD. Bivariate and multivariate analyses were used to explore associations between age at ASD diagnosis and delay in ASD diagnosis and use of health services. Health services included current use of behavioral intervention (BI) therapy, school-based therapy, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), and psychotropic medications. Results: Mean age at ASD diagnosis was 4.4 years, and mean diagnostic delay was 2.2 years. In adjusted analysis, older age at diagnosis (4 versus ,4) was associated with lower likelihood of current BI or school-based therapy use and higher likelihood of current psychotropic medication use. Analyses that treated age at diagnosis as a continuous variable found that likelihood of current psychotropic medication use increased with older age at diagnosis. A delay of two or more years between parents' first discussion of concerns with a provider and ASD diagnosis was associated with higher likelihood of current CAM use. Likelihood of current CAM use increased as delay in diagnosis became longer. Conclusions: Both older age at diagnosis and longer delay in diagnosis were associated with different health services utilization patterns among younger children with ASD. Prompt and early diagnosis may be associated with increased use of evidence-based therapies for ASD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-40
Number of pages8
JournalPsychiatric Services
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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