Autism before diagnosis: crying, feeding and sleeping problems in the first two years of life




To chart early registered regulatory problems (RP) in a representative group of young children with and without autism spectrum disorder (ASD).


The target group comprised 208 preschool children with ASD, whose records from the Child Health Centres (CHC) were reviewed regarding numbers of consultations for excessive crying, feeding and sleeping problems. The records from an age- and gender-matched comparison group were obtained from the same CHCs as those of the index children


Significant differences between the ASD and comparison groups were found for each domain studied and when domains were collapsed. Two or more consultations had occurred in 44% of the children in the ASD group and in 16% of the comparison group (p < 0.001). No correlations were found with regard to gender, later severity of autism, cognitive level or degree of hyperactivity.


Regulatory problems (RP) were much more common in children who later received a diagnosis of ASD. Children with many RP in infancy require attention from CHC and paediatric services and need to be followed with regard to development and family support.