General Practitioners' perspectives regarding early developmental surveillance for autism within the Australian primary healthcare setting:A qualitative study

Published April 2021


Children who have undetected developmental conditions early in life are more likely to develop health, learning, and behavioural challenges. This can pose significant challenges to the individual, their family and society if left undetected and unsupported. The early detection of developmental conditions through ongoing developmental surveillance offers opportunities to identify children reflecting early features of autism in a systematic way and provide access to appropriate and evidence-based supports and services to ensure children can reach their full potential.

Early identification and optimal early intervention in the toddler and preschool years for children with early signs of autism is critically important for optimizing outcomes. In Australia, the average age of autism diagnosis is 4.1 years among children accessing intervention under the age of 7 years. This study aims to compare the effectiveness of a developmental autism surveillance pathway (ASP) to surveillance as usual (SaU) care, that uses opportunistic visits to general practitioners (GPs).

The study is being conducted across New South Wales and Victoria with 30 clinics within each state with the aim of recruiting approximately 40 children aged between 18- and 24- months totalling 2,400 participants. Children in the study who show developmental signs of autism will be offered a full developmental assessment by the research team at 24 months of age to determine the efficacy of developmental surveillance in successfully identifying children on the autism spectrum.

Barbarbo, J., Masi, A., Gilbert, Nair, R., Abdullahi, I., Descallar, J., Dissayanake, C., Eastwood, J., Hasan, I., Jalaludin, B., Karlov, L., Khan, F., Kohlhoff, J., Liaw, S. T., Lingam, R., Menoza Diaz, A., Ong, N., Tam, C.W. M., Unwin, K., Woolfenden, S.,Eapen,. (2021). A multistate trial of an early surveillance program for autism within general practices. Frontiers in Pediatrics. doi:10.3389/fped.2021.640359

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