Family members other than parents can play a key role in initial recognition of problems prior to diagnosis of autism, which may lead to earlier diagnosis and potentially better outcomes, a study found.

Of 477 parents of children with autism who were surveyed online, 25% of parents reported that other individuals indicated their child might have a serious condition before they themselves suspected it. “The two most common categories of individuals are maternal grandmothers (27%) and teachers (24%),” Nachum Sicherman, PhD, of Columbia University, New York, and associates said. “If one adds maternal and paternal grandmothers and grandfathers together, then 59% of respondents who reported that anyone had raised concerns before they were aware that their child had a problem identified grandparents as having done so” (Autism. 2017. doi: 10.1177/1362361316679632 )”

“Frequent interactions with grandparents, and especially grandmothers, significantly lowered the age of diagnosis by as much as 5 months (P less than .05),” the researchers said.

Children with no siblings were diagnosed 6-8 months earlier than children with siblings (P less than .01).Children with an older sibling were diagnosed approximately 10 months earlier, relative to those with only younger siblings. (P less than .01).

Thus, the presence of grandparents and siblings significantly affects age of diagnosis in autistic children, Dr. Sicherman and associates said.


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