Early diagnosis of autism and impact on prognosis: a narrative review
Elisabeth Fernell,1 Mats Anders Eriksson,1,2 Christopher Gillberg1
1Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden; 2Department of Women's and Children's Health, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
Abstract: Autism spectrum disorders involve a set of clinical phenotypes that mirror an early onset of neurodevelopmental deviations, with core symptoms that can probably be related to a deficiency in the social instinct. Underlying the cognitive impairments there are physiological brain problems, caused by a large number of medical factors. This narrative review of systematic reviews and meta-analyses from the last 5 years (2008–2012) presents aspects from many areas in autism spectrum disorder research, with a particular focus on early intervention and the subsequent impact on prognosis. Other major areas discussed are epidemiology, early symptoms and screening, early diagnosis, neuropsychology, medical factors, and the existence of comorbidities. There is limited evidence that any of the broadband “early intervention” programs are effective in changing the natural long-term outcome for many individuals with an early diagnosis of autism. However, there is some evidence that Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) is an effective treatment for some children with ASD. Nevertheless, there is emerging consensus that early diagnosis and information are needed in order that an autism-friendly environment be “created” around affected individuals.
Keywords: autism spectrum disorder, epidemiology, screening, etiology, intervention, outcome
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