Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of neurodevelopmental disorders that affects social interaction, communication, interests and behavior. The earlier that autism is diagnosed and treated in children, the
better outcomes they will experience for future relationships and
However, most children aren’t detected and diagnosed with
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) until around age four, with children from
economically disadvantaged or minority backgrounds detected and
diagnosed up to two years later, on average.
‘Children be universally screened for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at 18 months and again at 24 months, recommends the American Academy of Pediatrics.’
For all autistic children
to get the care they need, researchers as well as the American Academy
of Pediatrics recommend that children be universally screened for ASD at
18 months and again at 24 months, among other strategies.
A review of
research and public health ramifications was published today in Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, a Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences (FABBS) journal published in partnership with SAGE Publishing.
In order to successfully diagnose all children who are at risk of
ASD, researchers Fein et al. recommend using a combination of
strategies, such as:
- Regular universal screening in the doctor’s office: ASD
screening should become a routine part of pediatric care. Doctors should
not wait for a child to exhibit signs of ASD or for parents to express
- Screening in other settings: screening should also take
place in settings other than the doctor’s office, such as day care,
child care, churches, and other community settings in order to help
reduce disparities–as many children do not receive consistent
healthcare and may miss doctor appointments.
- Better dialogue between doctor and parent about
developmental concerns: screening tools, such as questionnaires, should
be routinely used in doctor offices. They can serve as ice-breakers for
parents who may not raise concerns on their own and for doctors who may
be concerned about upsetting parents.
The researchers also recommend that government policy not continue
funding early intervention using local property taxes, which results in
children from wealthy states and communities receiving more access to
treatment than children in poorer areas.
They concluded: “The cost of effective early intervention is
significant; however, the impact of failing to provide this intervention
in long-term costs and unrealized human potential is much greater.”