• Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Testing, Assessment, and Measurement

Psychological research informs every decision around autism policy—from which interventions are covered by insurance, to how the educational system teaches children with autism, to what systems should be created to support adults. One current policy push centers on universal screening for autism. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for autism at 9 months, 18 months, and 24 or 30 months, with standardized autism spectrum disorder–specific tools used at the 18- and 24-month screenings. Nevertheless, in 2016, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force declined to recommend universal autism screening, citing insufficient evidence of the benefit of screening children whose development has not otherwise raised concerns (Final Recommendation Statement: Autism Spectrum Disorder in Young Children: Screening, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, 2016).

The decision has galvanized new research aimed at examining whether early diagnosis does lead to better outcomes for children with autism. At Drexel University, clinical psychologist Diana Robins, PhD, is leading a blinded, randomized study in pediatric primary-care settings to determine if different methods of detecting autism risk in primary care yield different outcomes for diagnosed children by the beginning of kindergarten. At Duke University, Geraldine Dawson, PhD, and her colleagues are studying how parents view universal screening and if they find it burdensome. “My hope,” Dawson says, “is that this research can influence a policymaking group like the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force to make decisions that would be the best for all families.”


(2020). A Push for Universal Screening. Vol. 51. No. 5. Pg. 29. American Psychological Association.