Rainbow Pediatrics
Fayetteville Office
(910) 486-5437
Hope Mills Office
(910) 426-5430
Raeford Office
(910) 904-0404

As Pediatric Autism Rates Increase, the Pandemic Creates Challenges in Timely Screening

Well-child examinations are essential for several reasons, but one reason, in particular, is gaining special attention: developmental and behavioral surveillance. For the first time in twelve years, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has updated its clinical recommendation on autism spectrum disorder. 

Research has shown that early identification of developmental delays allows the quicker implementation of therapies that result in positive outcomes. Rather than waiting for an autism diagnosis, the AAP recommends that therapies, such as speech and behavioral therapy, be implemented early and intensely for best results. 

The AAP continues to recommend that developmental and behavioral surveillance be conducted at every well-child visit. They also recommend developmental screening at 9, 18, and 30-month visits and specific screening for autism spectrum disorder at 18 and 24 months. 

During this pandemic, many parents fear going to the pediatrician due to the perceived increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. Immunization rates are down, and essential pediatric autism screenings are delayed. 

“Delaying essential immunizations and developmental screenings can result in much greater challenges for the family, in addition to the obvious health risks,” said Taner Esensoy, MD and Founder of Rainbow Pediatrics. 

More than five million Americans are affected by autism spectrum disorder. Its prevalence has increased to 1 in 59 children. In 2007, the rates were 1 in 155 children. People on the spectrum often have co-occurring conditions such as intellectual disabilities, language disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, and sleep issues. When the early signs of pediatric autism are recognized early, treatment for any co-occurring conditions can be implemented. 

Aligning with the AAP’s recommendations, our pediatric providers continue to work with families to ensure they have evidence-based services to address the social, academic, and behavioral needs at home and school. We can also help families transition to the adult system of medical and behavioral care when appropriate. 

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s development, please contact our office for an appointment. Early identification and access to therapies can prove to be very powerful in a child’s lifelong success.