Background and aims A protocol was developed to screen 7,951 children 6–11 years for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) enrolled at national schools in three regions (Galway, Waterford and Cork) in the Republic of Ireland.
Methods A study booklet completed by parents of eligible children, including: demographics, developmental history, and a screening instrument, Social Communication Questionnaire – Lifetime Form (SCQ: Rutter et al., 2003).
Results Study booklets were primarily completed by children’s mothers 4,474, 86%. Thirteen percent 694 of primary caregivers reported developmental disorders. Of these 411, 59% had been diagnosed, 245, 35% undiagnosed 38, 5% or on a waiting list for assessment. Sixty six percent, 234 of these children’s parents expressed developmental concerns on or before the child’s fourth birthday.
Awareness of developmental difficulties during early childhood was highest among the parents of children with a diagnosis of: ASD 48, 89%; Dyspraxia 48, 77%; ADHD 30, 71%. Significant differences in parental awareness were not observed for study children’s gender or age group. Neither was maternal awareness of difficulties in their child’s development and behaviour related to their level of education, social class, ethnic or cultural background or nationality.
Conclusions Excluding developmental difficulties diagnosed at birth maternal concerns relating to children’s development was highest for children with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders on or before the child’s fourth birthday. This is an important finding given that almost ½ of SCQ questions relate to children’s development at 4–5 years of age.