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Earlier Screenings = Better Outcomes for Ohio's Children

August 30, 2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio - One child in eight has a delay in development, and experts say that without the proper monitoring those children will miss out on early interventions that could mean brighter futures. That's why the Autism Society of Ohio has helped develop a pilot program to educate doctors about how to better screen for developmental disabilities.

Melissa Arnold, who heads the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says that when a child lags in development some parents and doctors take a wait-and-see attitude, and the project is working to change that.

"These screening tools really help make that decision as to whether you wait or, 'No, there's just too many red flags here. We need to make sure this child is brought in for further diagnostic services right away, so that we can determine if there is really a delay here.'"

Westlake pediatrician Dr. Andrew Garner is participating in the Autism Diagnosis Education Project. He says it has shown him how to integrate the proper screening tools into an already-busy medical practice.

"The practices that participated were all able to increase their screening rates and, in the long run, that's going to identify more kids with language delays, more kids with autism, more kids with developmental delays in general. And in the long term, that of course is going to turn into better outcomes for those children."

Dr. Garner says the screening tools are also helping to build better relationships between doctors and parents.

"They're much more willing to share their concerns - 'I'm worried, should he be talking?' 'I'm worried, should he be walking at this age?' - and that opens up a whole bunch of good communication and we can address their concerns and our concerns much more efficiently."

More than 900 physicians in nearly half of Ohio's counties are involved in the project and it is expanding to collaborate with other organizations, including "Help Me Grow," school districts and county boards for developmental disabilities. Funding was part of the 2007 budget bill and was renewed last year.

More information is available at www.autismohio.org

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH