The screening process isn’t accurate enough to diagnose autism, and instead is wrongly identifying ADHD, which triggers a different course of treatment.
The misdiagnosis is to some extent understandable because around 30 per cent of children with autism also have ADHD, say researchers from the Center for Autism Research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
The misdiagnosis was discovered when the researchers analysed the autism ratings of 386 children aged from seven to 17—and the problem could be in the way therapists ask questions to arrive at a diagnosis. Often, only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer is possible, and this could point to ADHD as much as autism.
A subtler ratings scale is needed to better tease out the reasons why a child may be inattentive or antisocial, for example, say the researchers.