Aims and Objectives:
It often takes several months or years after a parent becomes concerned about their child’s development to get an autism diagnosis. This leaves children with autism waiting for much needed early intervention services. This study aimed to better understand parents’ experiences with early autism diagnosis. It also looks at strategies to improve these processes within pediatrician practices.
Researchers conducted three 2-hour focus groups. These included 23 parents of children with autism under the age of 8. Parents were asked to share early concerns with their child’s development. They were also asked to share experiences with their child’s pediatrician.
Researchers noticed many parents brought up the same points in the focus groups. These points shed light on improving several areas of care and early autism diagnosis. Parents identified pediatricians’ knowledge of autism, responsiveness to concerns, and their approach to decision-making as important. Parents also mentioned that the pediatricians ‘willingness to make referrals and coordinate care’ were important.
Pediatricians play a significant role in helping parents address early concerns about autism. They can also help with early diagnosis. This study indicates that family-centered approaches to care are important for these concerns. Family-centered approaches include active listening, more parent participation, and making decisions together. Responding quickly and helping parents understand and prioritize service options may also help with early diagnosis.