Improving early detection, diagnosis and intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder: A cross-sectional survey in China

Yushen Dai, Tao Deng, Miaoying Chen, Baoqin Huang, Yan Ji, Yongshen Feng, Shaofei Liu, Dongmei Zhong, Tao Zhang, Lifeng Zhang

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Background: Detection and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are prerequisites for early interventions. However, few studies focused on this topic. Aim: This study aims to characterize the timing from symptom detection to intervention in children with ASD and identify predictors of age at ASD diagnosis, presence of intervention, and the time lag between detection and diagnosis. Methods and procedures: A cross-sectional survey was conducted with 303 parents (111 fathers and 192 mothers, 21–54 years) of children with ASD in Guangzhou, China. Outcomes and results: The median time from symptom observation to the first doctor visit was 3 months, while the time to ASD diagnosis averaged 6 months. Most children (76.24 %) were diagnosed within one year after detection, and 25.58 % had no intervention after diagnosis. Predictors of earlier ASD diagnosis included ASD-related symptoms identified at an older age, less serious symptoms, and initial symptoms with atypical motor development and sensory anomalies. ASD-related symptoms observed at an older age, initial symptoms with social deficits, sensory anomalies, and without language impairment, primary caregivers other than parents, families with lower income, and less social support utilization increased the odds of a time lag between detection and diagnosis. Children with fathers having lower education were less likely to receive interventions. Conclusions and implications: Earlier ASD identification and intervention might be facilitated by health education on typical symptoms of ASD for parents with young children and incorporating ASD screening during routine health examinations for children. For children whose primary caregivers are not their parents and from lower-income families, additional support may be required for timely diagnosis after reporting ASD-related symptoms. Moreover, more intervention supports are expected for children whose fathers have lower education levels. Helping families take full advantage of support is also important for early diagnosis and intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104616
JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023


  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Child
  • Detection
  • Diagnosis
  • Intervention
  • Social support


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