FRIDAY, Jan. 31, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Among people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), girls often receive a first diagnosis of autism later than boys, according to a study published online Jan. 20 in Autism Research.

Carolyn E.B. McCormick, Ph.D., from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and colleagues evaluated data from a large, densely sampled U.S. population-based cohort of people with ASD (1,000 participants; age range, 21 months to 64 years).

The researchers report the Rhode Island Consortium for Autism Research and Treatment represents an estimated 20 to 49 percent of the pediatric-aged population in Rhode Island with ASD. The cohort had a high rate of co-occurring medical and psychiatric conditions. Nearly half of the participants reported another neurodevelopmental disorder (e.g., attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or intellectual disability), 44.1 percent reported a psychiatric disorder, 42.7 percent reported a neurological condition (e.g., seizures/epilepsy, migraines, tics), 92.5 percent reported at least one general medical condition, and nearly one-third reported other behavioral problems. Overall, girls received a first diagnosis of ASD at a later age than boys (1.5 years later, on average), potentially due to more advanced language abilities in girls with ASD.

“Given that autism is a developmental disorder, the field really needs to focus on longitudinal studies: following people’s development and transitions,” a coauthor said in a statement. “I think we’re going to learn even more when we follow children from a very young age as they develop, including into adulthood.”

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