Child Health and Development
Group of young kids smiling.

Early Identification Key for Kids with Autism

The University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City, Kansas, is the primary autism diagnostic facility in the state of Kansas. As the region's premier academic medical center, the health system offers parents both initial screening and full autism diagnostic evaluation.

Here, pediatric psychologist Catherine Mancina Smith, PhD, discusses autism spectrum disorder and the importance of early identification and intervention.

Q: What is autism spectrum disorder?

A: According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disability that can cause significant impairment in socialization, communication and behavior.

Q: Have autism diagnoses increased?

A: Absolutely. The incidence of the disorder is estimated to occur in one of every 68 children in the U.S.

Q: At what age do you recommend parents screen their child?

A: Pediatricians monitor for any signs of developmental delay beginning at birth, then continue at your child’s first well-child appointment. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children be screened at 18, 24 and 30 months of age. All pediatricians at The University of Kansas Health System follow these guidelines. The earlier a child is identified, the longer the window for intensive early intervention.

Q: If autism is suspected, what is the next step for parents?

A: There are diagnostic centers across the country to more precisely determine autism spectrum disorder. But parents often have to wait 8-12 months for an appointment.

We have worked hard to reduce that wait time here, especially for children under the age of 5. Our current wait time is approximately 4 months, which is shorter than nearly all diagnostic centers in the Kansas City or Midwest region.

Q: How are you helping families throughout the state of Kansas?

A: We’ve provided 2-day workshops to more than 45 early intervention and education teams throughout the state. We teach them how to identify symptoms of autism and how to use autism-specific screening and assessment tools.

The trained teams then collaborate with our healthcare providers. Children suspected of having autism were evaluated remotely, through telemedicine. This unique service model significantly reduced wait times for those in rural or underserved areas in Kansas.

Military family outside smiling.

The University of Kansas Health System offers a weekly developmental evaluation clinic specifically reserved for military families. Access to this clinic expedites the diagnostic process for military families who sacrifice so much for our country. Learn more by calling 913-588-6300.

More information 

To learn more about monitoring child milestones in play, learning, speaking, activity and movement, download the CDC’s free milestone tracker app. The CDC has a national campaign called Learn the Signs. Act Early. It was developed to educate the public about symptoms of autism and to increase screening and referral to early intervention services. Learn more.

Pediatric patient CJ Norris.

Autism Evaluations for Military Families

For military families concerned their child may have autism, The University of Kansas Health System offers a weekly autism diagnostic and evaluation clinic in Kansas City.
Learn more and read one family's story.

To request a screening for autism spectrum disorder,

Call 913-588-1227 or request an appointment online.

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