Should I delay my child’s autism evaluation because of the “tripledemic?”

Despite concerns you may have about the current "tripledemic" and its impacts, it is important not to wait to get an Autism evaluation for your child.

With the current surge in RSV, influenza, and COVID-19 infections around the country, many parents may choose to postpone an evaluation for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) because their child is sick or because they are worried about getting sick if they go out. Parents may also be hesitant about a telehealth evaluation being inaccurate compared to an in-person assessment and may therefore choose to wait for an in-office appointment. Similarly, pediatricians may wonder what the ramifications associated with postponing an evaluation for Autism. Despite these concerns, however, it is important not to wait to get an Autism evaluation for your child.

Telehealth evaluations are as reliable as in-person evaluations for autism

A systematic review of telehealth evaluations for Autism prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic revealed that virtual services were reliable, convenient, and could help address the challenges in obtaining assessments in regard to concerns about infections.

Findings from 55 studies suggested that telehealth services for Autism were equivalent or better to services face-to-face. Diagnostic accuracy of telehealth assessments was shown to be as accurate as in-person; telehealth treatment was also found to be effective, with many parents expressing satisfaction. This highlights that telehealth evaluations are a reliable option for parents to obtain an assessment while minimizing the risk for infection associated with going out.

Prompt and early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders is important for positive treatment outcomes

In regard to waiting for an evaluation, prior studies have addressed the need to have children assessed for Autism ideally prior to age 4 or within 2 years of the initial concern. Delayed diagnosis has been associated with poorer outcomes.

The projected peak of the current triple surge is likely to be the end of December 2022 into January 2023 and may last as long as March. Current waitlists in the area for an evaluation is already months for many institutions which compounds any delay in seeking out an assessment. If you are concerned your child may have an autism spectrum disorder, now is the time to take advantage of telehealth services.

Preventing RSV in your family

A potential preventative measure to recommend to parents during this time is Vitamin D supplementation for RSV. Infants with low vitamin D levels may be at higher risk for life threatening disease. As for Influenza, the CDC estimates the current vaccine for the 2022-2023 season appears to be effective against the circulating strains of the virus, so encourage the flu shot when possible.

Lastly, make sure to take time to take of yourselves. Thanks to everyone on the front lines caring for patients. We hope you all are able to have a happy holiday.