New guidelines employ a team approach to autism diagnosis and care

by Karen N. Peart

Improving diagnosis and treatment for individuals with autism has been the focus of a growing body of research. New information from these studies led the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry to revise key parameters for evaluating and treating autism. Researchers led by Yale Child Study Center director Dr. Fred Volkmar have published the new practice parameters in the Feb. issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

"Early diagnosis of children with autism spectrum disorders means treatments will be introduced that lead to more positive outcomes for children," said Volkmar the Irving B. Harris Professor of Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Psychology at the Yale School of Medicine.

According to the , clinicians should routinely look for symptoms of in young children undergoing developmental assessments, and in all psychiatric evaluations. If significant symptoms are detected, clinicians should then coordinate a careful medical, psychological, and communication evaluation. These evaluations should differentiate between autism and a variety of developmental and other disorders, as well as intellectual and behavioral disabilities.

"Our goal was advocacy for individuals with autism and their families, and to ensure that services are coordinated across clinical care," said Volkmar. "Our field is changing rapidly, and these parameters are meant to promote effective care and move professional medical methods closer to current practices."

Volkmar and his co-authors reviewed abstracts from 9,481 research articles on autism that were published between 1991 and 2013. They then fully studied 186 of those articles based on their quality and ability to be applied more generally.

"Treatment should involve a team approach," said Volkmar, who notes that under these treatment parameters, psychiatrists will closely coordinate diagnosis and treatment with teachers, behavioral psychologists, and speech and language pathologists, and look for commonly occurring conditions.

A key addition to the new parameters is a focus on how clinicians should address the use of non-traditional therapies, like chelation and secretin. Clinicians are urged to ask families if they are using alternative/complementary treatments and to discuss the therapies' risks and potential benefits. Volkmar estimates that about 90% of parents of children with use some kind of alternative or complementary therapies. "It is important to encourage a discussion with parents about the potential harms of some of these therapies, as well as to educate them about evidence that supports what they're doing."

More information: Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: www.jaacap.com/article/S0890-8… (13)00819-8/fulltext

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Early treatment sparks striking brain changes in autism

Nov 06, 2012

When given early treatment, children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) made significant improvements in behavior, communication, and most strikingly, brain function, Yale School of Medicine researchers report in a new ...

Recommended for you

Planning a better future for people with autism

17 hours ago

In the world of special education, transition is the move from school to adult life. For most of us that move can be awkward, but for people with disabilities—particularly autism—it is especially complex.

Are three brain imaging techniques better than one?

Aug 22, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—Many recent imaging studies have shown that in children with autism, different parts of the brain do not connect with each other in typical ways. Initially, most researchers thought that ...

Adults with autism at higher risk of sexual victimization

Aug 14, 2014

Adults with autism are at a higher risk of sexual victimization than adults without, due to lack of sex education, but with improved interventions that focus on sexual knowledge and skill building, the risk could be reduced, ...

Autism rates steady for two decades

Aug 14, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—A University of Queensland study has found no evidence of an increase in autism in the past 20 years, countering reports that the rates of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are on the rise.

User comments