Service utilization in a sample of preschool children with autism spectrum disorder: A Canadian snapshot
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OBJECTIVE: To describe services received by preschool children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) during the five-year period following their diagnosis. METHOD: An inception cohort of preschoolers diagnosed with ASD from Halifax (Nova Scotia), Montreal (Quebec), Hamilton (Ontario), Edmonton (Alberta) and Vancouver (British Columbia) were invited to participate. Parents/caregivers (n=414) described the services provided to their children at four time points: baseline (T1; within four months of diagnosis; mean age three years); six months later (T2); 12 months later (T3); and at school entry (T4). Data were first coded into 11 service types and subsequently combined into four broader categories (no services, behavioural, developmental and general) for analysis. RESULTS: More than 80% of children at T1, and almost 95% at T4 received some type of service, with a significant number receiving >1 type of service at each assessment point. At T1, the most common service was developmental (eg, speech-language therapy). Subsequently, the most common services were a combination of behavioural and developmental (eg, intensive therapy based on applied behaviour analysis and speech-language therapy). Service provision varied across provinces and over time. DISCUSSION: Although most preschool children with ASD residing in urban centres were able to access specialized services shortly after diagnosis, marked variation in services across provinces remains a concern.