By Patricia Wright, Ph.D., MPH, and SVP Program Development

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently issued an updated clinical report on autism, its first in twelve years. The recommendations in  “Identification, Evaluation and Management of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders”  were notable for promoting early diagnosis and intervention and greater attention to adolescence and transition planning for young adults.  We’re thrilled by the new emphases, not only for their potentially positive impact, but also because they confirm the direction that NEXT for AUTISM has been taking.  Find out what’s been recommended to your pediatrician.

Early Identification and Treatment

Effectively identifying and supporting children and their families to obtain early diagnosis and enter into evidence-based treatments are key drivers of a high-quality life. We understood this when we opened the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain.   That the AAP has confirmed this knowledge and recommended that pediatricians screen children as early as eighteen months will go a long way towards shaping the futures of many with autism. The AAP also emphasized the importance of collaboration, another NEXT for AUTISM value. It urged doctors to work with parents and among different systems of care to address social, academic, and behavioral needs, pediatric, mental health and respite care, as well as leisure activities. If effectively followed, these recommendations can change the face of autism in five, ten, fifteen years, and beyond.

Adolescence and Transition to Adulthood

Equally significant was the AAP’s recommendations for adolescence and transition-to-adulthood planning.  Children with autism grow up to be adults with autism. Though they may outgrow their pediatrician’s care, they and their families need their doctors’ guidance to plan for adulthood.  The importance of this planning cannot be overstated. So many families report that they felt underprepared to support their child as they entered adulthood. We frequently hear from parents about unmet needs in housing, employment, and social connectedness.  As a community, we can address these issues with programs such as Project SEARCH Autism Enhancement, Corporate Consulting and NEXT for NEIGHBORS. Having pediatricians on this journey of change, advocating for appropriate post-secondary work, school, residential supports, and healthy lifestyles, is invaluable.

To read the full report, please click HERE