Early Concerns of Parents of Children With Autistic and Nonautistic Disorders

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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to extend previous research on the early concerns of parents of children with autism by (a) obtaining information from parents of very young children who have not yet received a diagnosis; (b) including a developmentally matched comparison sample; and (c) querying about first concerns as well as current concerns and behaviors. During their child's initial diagnostic evaluation, parents of 44 two-year-old children (22 with autism, 22 with developmental delay) responded to open-ended questions regarding their early concerns about their child's development as well as specific questions about social-communicative behaviors. The age of children when parents first became concerned and the specific nature of first concerns were similar for both groups, with the most frequent concerns related to children's language development. When asked specific questions about current social and communicative behaviors, parents of children with autism reported more deficits in both areas than did parents in the comparison group. These results suggest that specific questions about children's social-communicative behaviors may have more utility than open-ended questions in identifying young children who are at risk for an autism diagnosis.

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