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Spectrum: Autism Research News

Large colorful geometric shaped toys with children balancing on them.
illustration by
Maria Hergueta

In February of this year, a Spectrum feature dove deep at a clinic in Pennsylvania offering telehealth autism assessments for families with limited access to in-person services, a practice that was virtually nonexistent before the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote assessments mark just one of the latest developments in autism diagnosis, which has evolved almost continuously since Leo Kanner diagnosed Donald Triplett — who died this past June — as autism’s “case 1” in 1943. Here, we present some of our past coverage of the debates and challenges in identifying the condition.

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Coraline with her family at home in Pennsylvania.

The promise of telehealth in autism diagnoses

by  /  15 February 2023

The COVID-19 pandemic forced a reckoning, in which autism clinicians had to redefine best practices and expand how children are evaluated. The remote assessments they developed may help solve a persistent problem: the long wait families endure to get a diagnosis in the United States.

Collage of multiple figures on a hillside looking at a large blue book in the distance.

Debate remains over changes in DSM-5 a decade on

by  /  31 May 2023

Changes to the DSM-5’s diagnostic criteria for autism were meant to add clarity, but they also generated new questions.

Portrait of Cathy Lord.

Diagnosing autism with Catherine Lord

by  /  1 April 2023

In this inaugural episode, Lord discusses her entry into autism research, what the future of the field might look like and how drama club saved her in high school.

Headshots of Melissa Licari, Somer Bishop, Jana Iverson, Anjana Bhat and Audrey Thurm.

Should motor impairment be added to the diagnostic criteria for autism?

by  /  11 January 2023

In light of growing evidence that motor challenges are common among people with autism, we asked five researchers how these problems fit into the definition of the condition.

Portrait photograph of Donald Triplett against a black background.

Donald Triplett, autism’s ‘Case 1,’ dies at 89

by  /  20 June 2023

Triplett gained media attention for his autism later in life, and he became the face of the effort to research the lives of older adults with autism.

Photograph of a mother with her child in a hallway waiting for an appointment.

Average autism diagnosis delayed by more than two years

by  /  16 June 2023

The findings may explain why the average age at diagnosis has plateaued at 4 years old.

Clinicians lack confidence in diagnostic interviews with Black mothers

by  /  13 May 2022

Implicit biases might be to blame, and the discrepancy persists across clinics, regardless of maternal education, family income and a child’s IQ score.

Earlier autism diagnosis associated with greater trait improvement

by  /  2 December 2021

Children who are diagnosed with autism before age 2 and a half years show more gains in their social skills than children who are diagnosed later.

Young patient getting diagnosis from doctor.

Diagnosis timeline drags for Black autistic children

by  /  24 August 2020

High rates of intellectual disability among Black autistic children may reflect diagnostic delays.