Time Delays between Initial Parental Concern and First Visit to a Child Psychiatric Facility

By: Marlena N. Smith

In a recent study, Fujiwara, Okuyama, and Funahashi identified factors contributing to time delays between initial parental concern and first visit to a child psychiatric facility in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Early detection of ASD is crucial given the research demonstrating that behavioral intervention for ASD is more effective if delivered at earlier ages. Unfortunately, there are often considerable time lags between initial parental concern and ASD diagnosis. Fujiwara et al. set out to explore factors that contribute to time delays between initial parental concern and first visit to a child psychiatric facility in children with ASD in Japan.


Surveys were distributed to patients across 16 hospitals in Japan that specialized in child psychiatrics. A total of 1513 caregivers of children with ASD completed the survey.


A mean time lag of 2.9 years was identified between initial parental concern and first visit to a child psychiatric facility. Multiple factors were found to contribute to longer time delays, including:

  • Younger age at initial parental concern

  • Having younger siblings

  • Impairments in social interaction

  • Not going to school

  • Parental unawareness over where to arrange a consultation

  • Visiting other facilities prior to a child psychiatric facility, especially if not provided a referral

  • Longer commute to a child psychiatric facility

  • Longer waiting period for an appointment


Findings revealed several factors that contributed to time delays between initial parental concern and first visit to a child psychiatric facility in children with ASD in Japan. The authors stress the importance of maintaining strong networks between psychiatric, medical, and educational facilities in order to ensure timely referrals to appropriate sites. Early identification of ASD is vital given the benefits of early delivery of behavioral intervention.


References


Fujiwara, T., Okuyama, M., & Funahashi, K. (2011). Factors influencing time lag between first parental concern and first visit to child psychiatric services in children with autism spectrum disorders in Japan. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorder, 5, 584-591. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2010.07.002

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