UCL News


UCL study reveals potential diagnosis for disruptive children

15 April 2010


A disruptive pupil at school ucl.ac.uk/research/personal/index?upi=DHSKU85" target="_self">Professor David Skuse
  • UCL Institute of Child Health
  • Study published in The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • Children at risk of exclusion from school could have autistic behavioural traits, an Institute of Child Health study shows.

    In a study published earlier this month in The British Journal of Psychiatry, researchers from the UCL Institute of Child Health (ICH) have demonstrated that up to one-third of children who are at risk of being excluded from school for disruptive behaviour could have undiagnosed social communication problems of an autistic type. This replication study used individual clinical assessments to confirm the authors' provisional investigation at the same schools.

    This latest study focused on 16 primary schools in the London borough of Hackney where teachers elected to undertake detailed questionnaire surveys about the behaviour of pupils they considered to be persistently disruptive. Upon further analysis of these surveys, through parental interviews and direct observation, experts concluded that 35 per cent of the 26 children who underwent diagnostic tests had social communication problems that had been hitherto undetected by a professional.

    Professor David Skuse, who led the research and is Head of Behavioural and Brain Sciences at the ICH, said: "Our research shows that many children who get into trouble at school are being labelled disruptive or aggressive by their teachers and peers, when in reality they are displaying behaviours that are consistent with
    traits we see in clinically diagnosed autism."

    "The children involved in our study have been recommended for appropriate treatment and their educational needs should now be recognised and adjusted accordingly. Teachers should be supported to identify these children before they are unfairly excluded from school and they miss out on the education and learning opportunities they deserve."

    Image above: A disruptive pupil

    UCL context

    The UCL Institute of Child Health pursues an integrated, multidisciplinary approach to enhance understanding, diagnosis, therapy and prevention of childhood disease. A broad range of paediatric issues is covered, from molecular genetics to population health sciences.

    Related news

    UCL surgeons perform revolutionary transplant operation