As part of a wider survey of parents of children with autistic spectrum disorders in the UK, the diagnostic experiences of 614 parents of children with autism and 156 with Asperger syndrome were compared. Although the ages of the children in the two groups were very similar at the time of the survey, parents of children given a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome had experienced significantly longer delays and greater frustration in obtaining a diagnosis than those with a child with autism. In the ‘autism group’ the average age when diagnosis was confirmed was around 5.5 years; in the ‘Asperger group’ it was 11 years. Parents of children with a diagnosis of autism were generally aware of problems in their child's development by 18 months of age; in the Asperger group concerns emerged later, at around 30 months of age. Initial worries in both groups centred around abnormal social development but parents of children with Asperger syndrome were less likely to have noted communication problems. Stereotyped or repetitive behaviours were not prominent in the early years in either group. Despite the problems inherent in data collected by postal survey, many of the findings of this study are supported by other research. The practical implications of delayed diagnosis, especially in the case of more able children with Asperger syndrome are discussed.
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