Editor's Note - April 2014

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects 1 in every 68 children in the United States.1 This statistic—which the CDC calculated based on a limited sampling of 8-year-olds from 11 communities within the United States2—represents a 30% increase since the 2012 estimates of 1 in 88 children. Furthermore, data shows that ASD is more 5 times as common among boys than girls: 1 in 42 boys versus 1 in 189 girls.1 

April marks Autism Awareness Month and an opportunity to highlight the resources, diagnostic tools, and treatment services available for individuals with developmental difficulties inherent with this disorder.

The CDC report noted that most children with ASD are diagnosed after the age of 4, despite the fact that ASD can be diagnosed as early as age 2.1 Early identification is the most powerful tool that primary care physicians have to make a significant and positive impact on the lives of individuals with autism. 

Note: While autism is most commonly diagnosed in children, there are forms of this disorder—such as high functioning autism or Asperger—that can be diagnosed later in life. Differentiating ASD from other psychiatric conditions can be difficult because symptoms may overlap with schizophrenia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and personality disorders. A new tool, the RAADS-14 screen test, offers 14 self-screening questions to measure mentalizing deficits, social anxiety, and sensory oversensitivity.3 

Consultant360 recently highlighted several studies on autism:

• Diagnosis. Almost one-third fewer people are getting a diagnosis of ASD since the May 2013 revision of the diagnostic criteria for autism. The impact: Thousands of developmentally delayed children may go each year without an ASD diagnosis and thus fail to quality for social services, medical benefits, and the education support they need.4

• Use of antidepressants. Women who use antidepressants (ie, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors [SSRIs]) during pregnancy do not have a higher likelihood of carrying a child with autism. Children did have a higher than usual risk when mothers took SSRIs before becoming pregnant.5

• Lifestyle changes. Adults with autism who are engaged in more independent work environments show improvement in core autism symptoms, daily living skills, and other behavioral problems. This is important since underemployment is common among adults with autism—about 50% of autistic adults spend their days in segregated work or activity settings with little community contact.6

• Alternative treatment. Families of children with ASD commonly use complementary and alternative therapies, including dietary supplements or restrictions, antifungal medication, vitamin injections, and chelation therapy. Not all children with ASD benefit from these treatments but physicians should be aware of all therapies being used.7


Pooja Shah

Managing Editor, Consultant and Consultant360


1.CDC. CDC estimates 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder. 2014 Mar 27. Available at: Accessed April 4, 2014.

2.Prevalence of autism spectrum disorder among children aged 8 years—autism and developmental disabilities monitoring network, 11 sites, United States, 2010. MMWR CDC Surveil Summ. 2014;63(SS02):1-21.

3.Eriksson J, Anderson L, Bejerot S. RAADS-14 Screen: validity of a screening tool for autism spectrum disorder in an adult psychiatric population. Mol Autism. 2013;4:49.

4.Shah P. Fewer autism diagnoses since DSM update. Consultant360. 2014 Feb 27. Available at: Accessed February 27, 2014.

5.Emery G. Antidepressants taken in pregnancy don’t cause autism. Consultant360. 2013 Dec 18. Accessed April 4, 2014.

6.Mullarkey C. Change of work environment may impact autism symptoms in adults. Consultant360. 2014 Jan 19. Available at: Accessed April 4, 2014.

7.Seaman A. Complementary, alternative medicine common with autism. Consultant360. 2014 Jan 15. Available at: Accessed April 4, 2014.