American Academy of Pediatrics Updates Autism Guidelines

The American Academy of Pediatrics has updated its guidelines for autism diagnosis and treatment for the first time since 2007. The recommendations were published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

The goal is to help pediatricians identify children who could have the disorder and to intervene as soon as possible. While past guidelines have focused on autism research, the new recommendations prioritize early autism detection and intervention, as well as on improving transitions into adulthood. 

Updated recommendations for pediatricians include:

  • formally screening for autism earlier and more often, starting at 9 months and continuing periodically through a child’s 30 month check up. 
  • intervening as soon as possible for children with or who are at-risk for autism.
  • transition planning for families and adolescents as they near adulthood. 
  • informing families and patients about what options and interventions exist for different types of autism. 
  • better identification of co-occurring conditions, such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and other conditions.  

The number of children with autism has spiked in recent years, with one in 59 children receiving a diagnosis. Treating those on the spectrum comes at a cost. 

In 2015, direct and indirect costs of caring for children and adults on the autism spectrum was about $268 billion, according to the authors of the guidelines.

Yet people in the latter half of that group — adults with autism — are often overlooked. 


“Of course we know kids with autism become adults with autism,” author Susan Levy told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. However, previous research has largely looked overlooked autistic adults, she said. 

The authors of the new guidelines aim to change that, by placing a new emphasis of equitable autism care for adults.

The new recommendations come after this year’s Autism CARES Act also included adults for the first time, expanding government autism programs and research to include adults.

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