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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Screening and Referral

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss evaluation and diagnosis of young children.  Screening is an important part of the process.

Sonia A. Monteiro and colleagues have an article at Pediatrics titled "Screening and Referral Practices for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Primary Pediatric Care."  The abstract:
OBJECTIVES: To examine screening practices for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), subsequent referrals, and diagnostic outcomes within a large network of primary pediatric care practices.

METHODS: Rates of ASD screening with the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) at 18- and 24-month well-child visits were examined among 290 primary care providers within 54 pediatric practices between June 2014 and June 2016. Demographic, referral, and diagnostic data were abstracted from the medical records for all children who failed the M-CHAT (ie, score of ≥3) at either or both visits.

RESULTS: Rates of M-CHAT screening were 93% at 18 months and 82% at 24 months. Among 23 514 screens, scores of 648 (3%) were ≥3 (386 at 18 months, 262 at 24 months) among 530 unique children who failed 1 or both screenings. Among screen-failed cases, 18% received a diagnosis of ASD and 59% received ≥1 non-ASD neurodevelopmental disorder diagnosis within the follow-up period. Only 31% of children were referred to a specialist for additional evaluation.

CONCLUSIONS: High rates of ASD-specific screening do not necessarily translate to increases in subsequent referrals for ASD evaluation or ASD diagnoses. Low rates of referrals and/or lack of follow-through on referrals appear to contribute to delays in children’s receipt of ASD diagnoses. Additional education of primary care providers regarding the referral process after a failed ASD screening is warranted.