Very early signs of autism reported by parents include many concerns not specific to autism criteria

Vincent Guinchat, Brigitte Chamak, Beatrice Bonniau, Nicolas Bodeau, Didier Perisse, David Cohen, Anne Danion

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


This study assessed parents' first concerns about their autistic child. This information was categorized so that it could help healthcare professionals improve early detection of autism. We designed a questionnaire using an open-ended format, and 459 questionnaires were completed by parents to assess difficulties encountered in obtaining a diagnosis for their child. Answers about their first motive of concerns were categorized and compared with regards to age, gender, birth order, age of onset, delay in seeking professional advice, and delay in diagnosis. Concerns about social development or autistic behaviors were frequent, but not exclusive. Parents were divided into three clusters of concerns: (a) an "early awareness group": which included motor problems and passivity (14.6 months); (b) "intermediate awareness group": included emotional, hyperactivity, and sleep problems (15.3 months); and (c) a "later awareness group": which included communication problems, poor social interaction, and autistic-type behaviors (22.3 months). Parents who noticed general concerns not specific to autism were worried earlier, but received a later diagnosis. We suggest that motor problems, and/or emotional problems, and/or the level of a child's activity should encourage frontline professionals to seek autistic symptoms in infants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)589-601
Number of pages13
JournalResearch in Autism Spectrum Disorders
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Autism
  • Early diagnosis
  • France
  • Parents' first concerns
  • Questionnaire


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