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Moving From Research to Practice in the Primary Care of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders

      Abstract

      Autism spectrum disorders (ASD), once thought rare, are now commonly encountered in clinical practice. Academic pediatricians may be expected to teach medical students and pediatric residents about ASD, but most likely received limited exposure to ASD during their training. In recent years, research that informs the clinical guidance provided to pediatricians regarding surveillance, screening, and ongoing management of children with ASD has accelerated. By 24 months of age, children with ASD exhibit delays across multiple domains of development, yet the diagnosis is frequently made much later. Careful developmental surveillance lowers the age of identification of children with ASD. Several screening tools appropriate for use in primary care settings can aid in early identification. Improved surveillance and screening is of benefit because early intensive behavioral intervention has the potential to improve the developmental trajectory of children with ASD. Providing appropriate medical care for children with ASD improves both child and family outcomes. Recent research regarding sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal problems, and epilepsy in children with ASD has led to clinical pathways to evaluate and address these issues within the context of primary care. By being aware of and disseminating these research findings, academic pediatricians can help future and current clinicians improve the care of children with ASD.

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