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 Module: Early Identification of Autism Spectrum Disorders


SUMMARY

  • Understanding and recognizing the earliest characteristics of ASD is important to early identification and referral for appropriate services, resources, and supports.
  • There are a series of actions – surveillance, screening, and diagnostic assessments that may lead to the diagnosis of autism at the earliest possible age.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends developmental screening for all children (surveillance) through use of a valid and sensitive screening tool at 9, 18 and 24 (or 30) months, with additional screening for ASD at 18 and 24 months.
  • Diagnostic assessments include a combination of sources including parent interviews, direct observation of ASD characteristics, use of validated tools, and developmental assessment information.
  • A  number of autism specific instruments, such as the  ADOS, ADI-R, and CARS, have sufficient sensitivity and specificity to support an ASD diagnosis, though they may lack specificity when used with children younger than 24 months.
  • For children diagnosed with ASD before the age of two, re-evaluation at or after age three is recommended to assess the accuracy of the diagnosis.
  • Communication of findings to parents and referral for treatment are essential parts of early identification and diagnosis of ASD.
  • There are national campaigns and initiatives dedicated to early identification of ASD.

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