We present a prospective study at school age of neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental outcome of language delay suspected at child health screening around 30 months of age. In a community sample, 25 children (21 males, 4 females) screening positive and 80 children (38 males, 42 females) screening negative for speech and language problems at age 30 months were examined in detail for language disorders at age 6 years. The screen-positive children were then followed for another year and underwent in-depth neuropsychiatric examination by assessors blind to the results of previous testing. Detailed follow-up results at age 7 years were available for 21 children. Thirteen of these 21 children (62%) had a major neuropsychiatric diagnosis (autism, atypical autism, Asperger's syndrome, attention-deficit–hyperactivity disorder [ADHD]), or combinations of these. Two further children (10%) had borderline IQ with no other major diagnosis. We conclude that children in the general population who screen positive for speech and language problems before age 3 years appear to be at very high risk of autism spectrum disorders or ADHD, or both, at 7 years of age. Remaining language problems at age 6 years strongly predict the presence of neuropsychiatric or neurodevelopmental disorders at age 7 years.
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