Diagnosis of Autism spectrum disorder by developmental-behavioral pediatricians in academic centers: A DBPNet study

Robin L Hansen, Nathan J. Blum, Amy Gaham, Justine Shults

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: To describe the clinical practices of physicians in the Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics Network (DBPNet) to (1) diagnose Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), identify comorbidities, and evaluate etiology and (2) compare actual practice to established guidelines. METHODS: A total of 56 developmental-behavioral pediatricians completed encounter forms, including demographic/clinical information, for up to 10 consecutive new-patient visits given a diagnosis of ASD. Data were summarized by using descriptive statistics. Analysis of the statistical significance of differences between sites (n = 10) used general estimating equations and mixed-effects logistic regression to adjust for clustering by clinician within site. RESULTS: A total of 284 ASD forms were submitted. Most assessments (56%) were completed in 1 visit (27.5% in 2 visits, 8.6% in 3 visits). Use of the Childhood Autism Rating Scale, Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, or Screening Tool for Autism in Toddlers and Young Children varied across sites from 28.6% to 100% of encounters (P < .001). A developmental assessment was reviewed/completed at 87.7% of encounters (range: 77.8%- 100%; P = .061), parent behavior rating scales were reviewed/completed at 65.9% (range: 35.7%-91.4%; P = .19), and teacher behavior rating scales were reviewed/completed at 38.4% (range: 15%-69.2%; P = .19). Only 17.3% (95% confidence interval: 12.8%-21.7%) of evaluations were completed by an interdisciplinary team. A majority (71%) of patients had at least 1 comorbid diagnosis (31% had at least 2 and 12% at had least 3). Etiologic evaluations were primarily genetic (karyotype: 49%; microarray: 69.7%; fragile X: 71.5%). CONCLUSIONS: Despite site variability, the majority of diagnostic evaluations for ASD within DBPNet were completed by developmental-behavioral pediatricians without an interdisciplinary team and included a developmental assessment, ASD-specific assessment tools, and parent behavior rating scales. These findings document the multiple components of assessment used by DBPNet physicians and where they align with existing guidelines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S79-S89
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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