The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued new autism treatment guidelines this week to help doctors identify children at high-risk for autism, and provide care as quickly as possible. The new autism guidelines are the first issued by the AAP in 12 years, according to a report by Reuters.com.
Autism, a spectrum of disorders that impairs verbal communication and social skills and creates repetitive behaviors, affects over 5 million Americans. The AAP report urges doctors to check for autism symptoms during infant checkups and refer children for treatment as soon as symptoms appear, due to the fact that developmental delays often appear in very young children.
Since AAP’s last guidelines were published in 2007, the number of children diagnosed with autism in the U.S. has sharply increased, with the condition now affecting 1 in 59 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). While the exact causes of autism remain unknown, scientists have developed a better understanding of the potential risk factors and genes that contribute to autism.
Dr. Susan Levy, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said the goal of the AAP report is “educating pediatricians and other healthcare providers about all the options and issues, and working to empower them since they’re in the front lines to make the early referrals.”
The report explains that 40% of individuals with autism also have intellectual disability, while 40-60% of school aged children with autism have anxiety disorders.
According to Reuters, the AAP report encourages doctors to be transparent about decision-making with families, and help them plan for when a child transitions to adolescence and adulthood.