A statewide tiered system for screening and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder

Rebecca Mc Nally Keehn, Mary Ciccarelli, Dorota Szczepaniak, Angela Tomlin, Thomas Lock, Nancy Swigonski

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Although autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be reliably detected in the second year of life, the average age of diagnosis is 4 to 5 years. Limitations in access to timely ASD diagnostic evaluations delay enrollment in interventions known to improve developmental outcomes. As such, developing and testing streamlined methods for ASD diagnosis is a public health and research priority. In this report, we describe the Early Autism Evaluation (EAE) Hub system, a statewide initiative for ASD screening and diagnosis in the primary care setting. Development of the EAE Hub system involved geographically targeted provision of developmental screening technical assistance to primary care, community outreach, and training primary care clinicians in ASD evaluation. At the EAE Hubs, a standard clinical pathway was implemented for evaluation of children, ages 18 to 48 months, at risk for ASD. From 2012 to 2018, 2076 children were evaluated (mean age: 30 months; median evaluation wait time: 62 days), and 33% of children received a diagnosis of ASD. Our findings suggest that developing a tiered system of developmental screening and early ASD evaluation is feasible in a geographic region facing health care access problems. Through targeted delivery of education, outreach, and intensive practice-based training, large numbers of young children at risk for ASD can be identified, referred, and evaluated in the local primary care setting. The EAE Hub model has potential for dissemination to other states facing similar neurodevelopmental health care system burdens. Implementation lessons learned and key system successes, challenges, and future directions are reviewed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere20193876
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

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