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Mapping the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders in children aged under 7 years in Australia, 2010–2012

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The early diagnosis of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a critical step in gaining access to early intervention, providing optimal opportunity for developmental benefits by taking advantage of early brain plasticity.1 The age at which intervention begins has been associated with improved outcomes, with younger children showing greater gains from intensive early intervention.2,3 Although research suggests ASD can be reliably diagnosed by the age of 24 months,4,5 a recent review found that, on average, diagnosis is delayed until 3 years, with the average age at diagnosis ranging from 38 to 120 months across 42 studies conducted across the United States, United Kingdom, Europe, Canada, India, Taiwan and Australia.6

Many factors have been found to influence the age at which ASD is diagnosed, including the characteristics of the child, the clinical presentation, sociodemographic characteristics, and parental concerns and behaviour.6 These factors may interact with characteristics of the local community, the health professional and health service to differentially influence the age at which children are identified and diagnosed with ASD in…