Early Screening For Autism Leads To Earlier Intervention: New Evidence

In my last post, I suggested that early screening for autism is warranted and should continue. The many comments that were posted on my blog and on Parents Facebook page provided compelling arguments in favor of early screening. And a new study published in Pediatrics provides solid evidence that early screening is in fact leading to early intervention. Here are the key findings:

  • Early diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) — defined as occurring before 36 months of age — increased in Massachusetts by 66% from 2001 – 2005
  • 1 in 129 children born in Massuchusetts between 2001 and 2005 were enrolled in an early intervention program for ASD by 36 months of age

The researchers speculate that the increases in diagnoses and routing to early intervention came about in part via:

  • Increased efforts by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to support early identification of ASD
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Learn the Signs. Act Early” campaign
  • The emphasis placed on early screening by the American Academy of Pediatrics which also encourages providers to conduct screenings

This paper adds to the evidence that early screening works — children are now identified earlier than ever and families receive services earlier than before.

Public health campaigns that provide new information to parents and new tools to caregivers are helping to make a difference in the fight against autism. Supporting research and clinical efforts to improve this process can help children and parents even more in the future. I encourage all parents to embrace “Learn the Signs. Act Early” as part of their regular visits with their pediatricians.

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