As part of its Move the Needle initiative, Autism Speaks is hosting a strategic planning meeting in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 29 and March 1. Invited experts and other stakeholders will collaborate to develop practical and effective strategies for lowering the age of autism diagnosis and improving access to early intervention services in all our communities, with a special focus on underserved populations.
In recent decades, researchers have made great strides in developing autism screening and diagnostic methods that enable earlier intervention. These include screening tools that can be used with infants as young as 12 months. Early screening is vital because studies have shown that earlier intervention results in more positive outcomes in cognitive, language and social development.
Despite this progress, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that the average age of autism diagnosis in the United States has remained close to 5 years. The age is even higher among children from ethnic minority backgrounds. What’s more, the majority of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) do not have access to evidence-based, intensive early intervention therapies.
Autism Speaks’ Move the Needle Initiative is addressing key barriers to early diagnosis and treatment. The goal of this month’s meeting will be to develop recommendations for addressing these challenges through public awareness and the real-world implementation of best practices in screening, diagnosis and early intervention. The meeting will include presentations by researchers who have identified key barriers to services as well as those who have developed innovative technologies that may help address these challenges.
Through its Move theNeedle Initiative, Autism Speaks seeks to produce coordinated and strategic improvements in early diagnosis and treatment in all our communities.