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14 Haziran 2024

Spotlight On Progress in Early Identification Disrupted during the COVID-19 Pandemic among 4-year-old Children


The ADDM Network has reported evidence of progress in early identification among children born in 2016 compared with those born in 2012, particularly in the realm of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The findings indicate an increase in the number of children being identified with ASD at a younger age, specifically by 48 months of age. This improvement is crucial as it allows for earlier access to necessary services and support for children with ASD.

The observed patterns align with previous reports and suggest enhancements in practices within families, healthcare providers, and educators, aimed at evaluating and identifying children with ASD early on. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted this progress in early ASD identification. Starting around March 2020, children born in 2016 began receiving fewer evaluations and ASD identifications within ADDM Network communities compared to children born in 2012 during the same age window. These delays in evaluation could potentially lead to a backlog of unidentified cases, with long-lasting effects due to delays in identification and initiation of services.

It’s imperative for communities to assess the impact of these disruptions, particularly on children who may have experienced delays in evaluation and ASD identification. Strategies should be considered to mitigate service disruptions and address longer-term effects during future public health emergencies.

Tracking ASD among 4-year-old children involves understanding various characteristics such as the age of diagnosis and intellectual ability. This understanding helps identify areas of progress in early identification as well as areas that still require improvement.

Steps in the process to diagnose ASD include:

  1. Developmental monitoring: This involves caregivers such as parents, healthcare providers, and early educators observing developmental milestones in children, enabling them to recognize potential concerns early on.
  2. Developmental screening: A short test using validated screening tools to identify any delays in basic skills, recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics at 18 and 24 months of age.
  3. Comprehensive developmental evaluation: A thorough review conducted by various professionals including teachers, social workers, psychologists, etc., to assess various aspects of a child’s development and behavior.
  4. Diagnosis: Determined by developmental pediatricians, child neurologists, psychiatrists, or psychologists based on the results of the comprehensive evaluation. This often involves ruling out other disorders and can be crucial for accessing medical services through health insurance.

In conclusion, while progress has been made in early identification of ASD among children born in 2016 compared to those born in 2012, disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have posed challenges. It’s essential for communities to address these disruptions and continue efforts to improve early identification and access to services for children with ASD.

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