Can autism be diagnosed accurately in children under 3 years?

J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 1999 Feb;40(2):219-26.


This study investigated the reliability and stability of an autism diagnosis in children under 3 years of age who received independent diagnostic evaluations from two clinicians during two consecutive yearly evaluations. Strong evidence for the reliability and stability of the diagnosis was obtained. Diagnostic agreement between clinicians was higher for the broader discrimination of autism spectrum vs. no autism spectrum than for the more specific discrimination of autism vs. PDD-NOS. The diagnosis of autism at age 2 was more stable than the diagnosis of PDD-NOS at the same age. Social deficits and delays in spoken language were the most prominent DSM-IV characteristics evidenced by very young children with autism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Autistic Disorder / classification
  • Autistic Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Behavioral Symptoms / diagnosis
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / diagnosis
  • Child Psychiatry / standards*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Manuals as Topic / standards*
  • Observer Variation
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Social Behavior Disorders / diagnosis