More than 982,000 autistic children risk diagnosis delays thanks to lockdown measures

More than 982,000 children and their families risk being ‘forgotten’ by the system, as COVID lockdowns delay autism diagnosis. Analysis of data by a leading autism publication reveals children with suspected autism are at risk of being un- or misdiagnosed as a result of vital services being shut down during the pandemic.

Reports suggest that, due to closures and limited resources, parents are finding it increasingly difficult to spot signs of autism and access routes to diagnosis even when they do. In response, the brand has put together a signs of autism checklist for concerned parents.

Cases of suspected autism face delayed diagnosis as a result of pandemic lockdowns, with an estimated 982,319 children at risk.

Research conducted by Autism Parenting Magazine has revealed that many children face being mis- or even undiagnosed due to lockdowns over the last six months, as experts warn wait times for appointments and access to vital services will rise.

According to Google, searches for ‘early signs of autism in toddlers’ is up 350% and ‘signs of autism in kids’ up 120% since April. In response, the site has created a guide to help parents spot the early signs of autism: click here.

The COVID-19 pandemic means that the traditional ways of assessment through in-person observation have been unavailable to struggling parents, and may result in a longer wait for a diagnosis, a misdiagnosis or worse, no diagnosis at all. According to the CDC, 1 in 54 children in the US have some form of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Clinicians and healthcare professionals are attempting to work around Coronavirus by using virtual tools —such as Tele-health and Tele-therapy — as a way to diagnose and treat patients. Unfortunately, virtual assessments can be unreliable, meaning parents face issues getting the diagnosis accepted by their insurance firm or Medicaid. Considering the average cost of caring for a child with autism is approximately $60,000 per year in special services and lost wages, it’s even more vital that diagnosis takes place early.

Mark Blakely, founder of Autism Parenting Magazine said, “Parents of children with suspected autism often struggle to pinpoint signs that mean their child is not neurotypical, and without schools, teachers, friends and family to help parents during lockdowns, these children risk further delays to diagnosis. Often, it’s a lack of confidence and understanding of the signs parents are seeing which leads to delays in starting the diagnosis journey, but now they’re having to cope with the added pressure of appointment and referral meetings cancelled or postponed even when they do start the process.

“Raising an autistic child means increased outgoings, for therapies, medication, equipment and support such as respite care, while often having to reduce working hours over a child’s lifetime. It’s a scary prospect for parents, even when they feel well supported and listened to in their concerns. Early diagnosis can save autistic children and their families a lot of anguish and heartache, as well as time and money in the long run, and we would ask the Government to prioritize reducing waiting times for these families in order to give them that.”


Image Sources

  • Autism: Image by Nathan Legakis from Pixabay