|dc.description.abstract||Autism, a severe disorder of development, is becoming increasingly common
among children. The prevalence of autism is estimated to be 1 in 150 children (Johnson
& Myers, 2007) and the incidence is on the rise. Autism can cause disabilities in all areas
of psychological development, from cognitive, language, and behavioral deficits to
impairments in social interaction (Crane & Winsler, 2008). Early detection of autism
increases the chance of early intervention, which has proven to lead to better outcomes.
However, previous studies have shown that less than 30% of providers are screening
children for autism (Blackwell & Niederhauser, 2003).
Nurse practitioners in a primary care or pediatric setting are in a significant
position to improve outcomes for children through routine screening for autism. The
purpose of this study was to explore the routine screening practices of nurse practitioners
for autism in children. The following three research questions were explored: 1) Are
nurse practitioners routinely screening for autism in children? 2) At what age do nurse
practitioners begin screening for autism in children? 3) What are the barriers to routine
screening for autism in children? Orlando?s Nursing Process Theory was used as the
theoretical framework for this study.
A quantitative study approach was used to explore the routine screening practices
of nurse practitioners for autism in children. The convenience sample included 102 nurse
practitioners working with pediatric patients in a primary care or pediatric setting in
Northeastern Wisconsin. Data was collected through the use of a 16-item questionnaire
with closed-ended questions. A list of local nurse practitioners, along with their home
addresses, was obtained from the Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing.
Questionnaires were mailed to the nurse practitioners? homes and responses were kept
Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the data. Findings indicated that only
23% of the nurse practitioners routinely screen pediatric patients for autism. The age at
which this sample began screening children for autism was not consistent with current
recommended guidelines. The main barriers to routine screening for this sample were 1)
unfamiliarity with the screening tools, 2) absence of formal training to screen for autism,
and 3) limited time. These barriers are consistent with findings of studies reviewed in the
literature. The majority of the participants in this sample would benefit from learning
more about autism. Overall, it appears that the recommended guidelines for autism
screening are not being followed.||en