First parental concerns and age at diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder: A retrospective review from Malaysia

Subhashini Jayanath, Sally Ozonoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder. This is the first study to examine first parental concerns in ASD in Malaysia. We examined: I) age and type of first parental concerns (AOC); ii) association between AOC and severity; iii) time lag between AOC and diagnosis; and iv) factors associated with diagnostic delay. Methods: Medical records of 366 patients (aged 1–18 years) with ASD, at the Developmental Paediatrics Clinic of University of Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC), Kuala Lumpur, were reviewed for this 16-month retrospective cohort study. A validated coding system was used for initial parent concerns. Severity was classified via the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5th edition (DSM-5) criteria. Time lag between AOC and age at diagnosis (AOD) was calculated. Potential predictors of delayed diagnosis were extracted. Results: Three-quarters (75.1%) of parents had concerns by 36 months. Speech/language/ communication concerns were most frequent (60.1%). Number of first concerns was significantly correlated with severity (social communication/interaction, SCI [P = 0.019] and restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviours and/or interests/activities, RRB [P < 0.001]). AOC and AOD were significantly negatively correlated with SCI and RRB (P < 0.001). Medians; AOC: 24 months, AOD: 46 months and time lag: 17 months. Higher initial screen time was associated with diagnostic delay (P = 0.031). Conclusion: First parental concerns and AOD were comparable to studies across countries. Speech/communication delays may represent universal first parental recognition of ASD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-89
Number of pages12
JournalMalaysian Journal of Medical Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Delayed diagnosis
  • Language delay
  • Parent concerns
  • Screen time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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