NEW YORK, NY (October 31, 2007) – Autism Speaks, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing awareness of autism and raising money to fund autism research, today applauded the American Academy of Pediatrics for its release of two new clinical reports urging early screening for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) for all children.
The AAP now recommends that all children be screened for autism spectrum disorder twice before age 2 -- once at 18 months and once at 24 months -- as part of well baby checkups. Further, it recommends that treatment for autism be started when autism spectrum disorder is suspected, rather than when a formal diagnosis is made.
The new policies replace AAP guidelines on ASD released in 2001. According to the AAP, the change is due primarily to evidence showing that a reasonably reliable diagnosis can be made at 18-24 months, a finding based on research from the Autism Speaks-funded Baby Siblings Research Consortium.
The new guidelines stress a "child-centric or family-centric" approach to ASD-related care. Due to increasing parental awareness of the early signs of ASD, the AAP is urging members to "partner" with parents and "listen to the parents" about their concerns for the development of their children. Additionally, because of communication difficulties in children with autism, the Academy urges special attention be paid to "co-morbid conditions" such as sleep and GI disturbances, saying successful management of these medical conditions could help children benefit more from behavioral intervention programs.
“The AAP represents the gold standard in pediatric medicine, so the fact that it has heeded the growing concerns of parents and taken significant steps to improve and update its autism guidelines and resources is an incredibly important development,” said Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks.
“The next big step is to fight for insurance coverage for autism treatments,” added Wright during an appearance on NBC's Today Show. “Behavioral treatments are a critical part of the medical management of autism. Behavioral interventions, such as Applied Behavior Analysis, and other structured behavioral programs, need to be recognized as medically necessary services and paid for by private health insurance.” (Read more about Wright's Today appearnce). Autism Speaks is currently involved in pressing for autism insurance reform in Pennsylvania, and intends to lobby in other states for mandated coverage of these services.
The AAP also announced the release of an Autism Toolkit that will be made available to all pediatricians to aid in their understanding of autism and autism diagnostic criteria. Included in the kit is the newly launched web-based autism video glossary created by Autism Speaks, First Signs and Florida State University. In the two weeks since its launch on October 15, more than 95,000 people have registered to use the Autism Video Glossary.
The two new AAP reports, "Identification and Evaluation of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders," and "Management of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders," are available on the AAP's web site, www.aap.org.
Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by extreme behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 150 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The diagnosis of autism has increased tenfold in the last decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.
ABOUT AUTISM SPEAKS
Autism Speaks is dedicated to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for autism, and to advocating for the needs of affected families. It was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Vice Chairman, General Electric, and served as chief executive officer of NBC for more than twenty years. Autism Speaks has merged with both the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) and Cure Autism Now (CAN), bringing together the nation's three leading autism advocacy organizations. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.