Promoting Earlier Screening and Intervention in Pediatric Patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review [paper]




Torres, Amber

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Introduction: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends routinely screening pediatric patients for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at 18 and 24 months, however symptoms of ASD can present much earlier in development. The purpose of this review is to encourage prompt identification of symptoms for early screening and interventions. Methods: A search for primary research articles was performed utilizing articles published from 2015 – 2023. Ten studies were included in this review that discussed ASD screening practices and barriers to implementation. Results: Key findings in this systematic review include symptoms of ASD being present as early as six months in development, with early screening and interventions having a positive developmental impact in social and language skills. Earliest symptoms can include poor head control, lack of eye contact, and developmental regressions. Common barriers to screening contributing to a delayed diagnosis include use of clinical caution, missed diagnoses as another disorder, missed symptoms due to subtlety, and a lack of time and resources. The most sensitive screening tools available throughout the studies Mullen Scales of Early Learning, Vineland Adaptive Behavioral Scales, Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Autism Observation Scale for Infants, and the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers. Discussion: There seems to be sufficient evidence that suggests initiating early screening of ASD before 18 months of age can promote better school age outcomes in children with ASD. Thus, providers must adopt more stringent screening practices, such as yearly screening if initial screening is negative but ASD is still suspected by parent or provider.



Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD, autism screening, early signs, early intervention, developmental milestones


Torres, A. (2023). Promoting earlier screening and intervention in pediatric patients with autism spectrum disorder: A systematic review [paper]. St. David's School of Nursing, Texas State University.


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