The researchers found 40 studies describing 35 approaches, published from January 1990 through January 2013. They grouped the approaches into three categories: awareness, routine screening, and practice improvement to enhance screening. Use of practice-improvement approaches was related to increased screening and referral, while clinicians using awareness approaches indicated greater knowledge about autism. Use of routine screening produced greater rates of screening and referrals, although few studies evaluated the effect of routine screening on the age at which the disorder was diagnosed or on the services that were provided.
However, "that few studies reported outcomes beyond rates of referral indicates the need for enhanced methodological rigor, particularly with respect to length of follow-up and quality of measures used,” concluded Daniels and colleagues.
To read more about research on autism spectrum disorders, see the Psychiatric News article, “Pieces of Autism Puzzle Slowly Coming Together.” For a comprehensive review of the field, see Textbook of Autism Spectrum Disorders from American Psychiatric Publishing.