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This initiative developed by the AAP summarizes the principles of early detection and intervention in the acronym A.L.A.R.M.

Autism is prevalent

  • 1 out of 6 children are diagnosed with a developmental disorder and/or behavioral problem
  • 1 in 166 children are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder
  • Developmental disorders have subtle signs and may be easily missed

Listen to parents

  • Early signs of autism are often present before 18 months
  • Parents usually DO have concerns that something is wrong
  • Parents generally DO give accurate and quality information
  • When parents do not spontaneously raise concerns, ask if they have any

Act early

  • Make screening and surveillance an important part of your practice (as endorsed by the AAP)
  • Know the subtle differences between typical and atypical development
  • Learn to recognize red flags
  • Use validated screening tools and identify problems early
  • Improve the quality of life for children and their families through early and appropriate intervention


  • To Early Intervention or a local school program (do not wait for a diagnosis)
  • To an autism specialist, or team of specialists, immediately for a definitive diagnosis
  • To audiology and rule out a hearing impairment
  • To local community resources for help and family support


  • Schedule a follow-up appointment to discuss concerns more thoroughly
  • Look for other features known to be associated with autism
  • Educate parents and provide them with up-to-date information
  • Advocate for families with local early intervention programs, schools, respite care agencies, and insurance companies
  • Continue surveillance and watch for additional or late signs of autism and/or other developmental disorder


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Jeff, Age 35