BALTIMORE — Children born before the AAP recommendation for universal infant autism spectrum disorder screening, at 18 and 24 months, were diagnosed significantly later in life than children born after the recommendation, according to research presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting.
“Our research shows that children evaluated before the AAP recommended universal pediatric screening were more likely to be diagnosed at an older age and with more severe autistic symptoms and more impaired adaptive functioning,” Maria Valicenti-McDermott, MD, MS, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Children's Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center at Montefiore Health System, said in a press release. “This shift has been critical in light of research showing the significant impact early intervention can have for children with ASD.”
The researchers compared age at diagnosis of 295 children born in 2005 (aged older than 2 years at the time of the AAP’s universal screening recommendation) against 217 children born after the recommendation, until 2012. Participants were gathered from university-affiliated developmental centers. The researchers also examined how demographic and clinical characteristics were associated with age at diagnosis.
Study results showed that average age at diagnosis for children born before the recommendation for universal screening was 46 months (plus/minus 15 months), vs. 36 months (plus/minus 12 months) for children born after the recommendation was made (P < .001). The researchers also found that the proportion of children diagnosed after age 3 decreased from 63% before the recommendation to 26% afterward (P < .001).
“It remains unclear at this point, whether the significant drop in average age of diagnosis we found was entirely the result of pediatrician universal screening or the effect of the national campaign to increase awareness of ASD, in general, and the importance of an early diagnosis in particular,” Valicenti-McDermott said in the release. “But given the undisputed benefit of early identification of autism, sorting out the contribution of universal screening to this pattern will be an important next step to address the concerns of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force regarding the benefits of early screening.”
Valicenti-McDermott M, et al. Abstract #2833.289. Presented at: Pediatric Academic Societies 2016; April 30 - May 3, 2016; Baltimore.
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