Disparities in Documented Diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder Based on Demographic, Individual, and Service Factors

Lisa D. Wiggins, Maureen Durkin, Amy Esler, Li Ching Lee, Walter Zahorodny, Catherine Rice, Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp, Nicole F. Dowling, Jennifer Hall-Lande, Michael J. Morrier, Deborah Christensen, Josephine Shenouda, Jon Baio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


The objectives of our study were to (a) report how many children met an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) surveillance definition but had no clinical diagnosis of ASD in health or education records and (b) evaluate differences in demographic, individual, and service factors between children with and without a documented ASD diagnosis. ASD surveillance was conducted in selected areas of Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. Children were defined as having ASD if sufficient social and behavioral deficits and/or an ASD diagnosis were noted in health and/or education records. Among 4,498 children, 1,135 (25%) had ASD indicators without having an ASD diagnosis. Of those 1,135 children without a documented ASD diagnosis, 628 (55%) were not known to receive ASD services in public school. Factors associated with not having a clinical diagnosis of ASD were non-White race, no intellectual disability, older age at first developmental concern, older age at first developmental evaluation, special education eligibility other than ASD, and need for fewer supports. These results highlight the importance of reducing disparities in the diagnosis of children with ASD characteristics so that appropriate interventions can be promoted across communities. Autism Res 2020, 13: 464-473. © 2019 International Society for AutismResearch,Wiley Periodicals, Inc. LAY SUMMARY: Children who did not have a clinical diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) documented in health or education records were more likely to be non-White and have fewer developmental problems than children with a clinical diagnosis of ASD. They were brought to the attention of healthcare providers at older ages and needed fewer supports than children with a clinical diagnosis of ASD. All children with ASD symptoms who meet diagnostic criteria should be given a clinical diagnosis so they can receive treatment specific to their needs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)464-473
Number of pages10
JournalAutism Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • autism
  • diagnosis
  • disparities
  • surveillance


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