A Training Model for the Diagnosis of Autism in Community Pediatric Practice

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Objective:Early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) currently represents a critical public health and clinical practice issue. Waits for diagnostic services are quite lengthy and hinder the start of early intervention services thought to be crucial for optimizing functional developmental outcomes for children and their families. In this study, we present data from a newly developed training program (Screening Tools and Referral Training-Evaluation and Diagnosis training) designed to help pediatricians diagnose young children with ASD in the context of traditional community practice settings.Methods:A small, targeted group of community pediatricians participated in an intensive training, conducted specialized ASD evaluations within their own practices, and then referred a consecutive series of children to a medical center diagnostic clinic for an independent assessment of ASD.Conclusion:Results of this small pilot study indicate good agreement (71%) between pediatrician judgments and independent diagnostic ASD evaluations, but a significant trend toward overidentification when a diagnostic decision is forced. We discuss the implications of this study with regard to revisiting traditional service models of diagnostic assessment for young children with ASD.

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