Background: Extremely preterm (EP) infants screen positive for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) at high rates. However, it is not clear whether this is because of high rates of ASD in EPs or to high rates of false-positive screens for ASD in children with a high rate of underlying neurodevelopmental impairments. Combining a parent questionnaire designed to distinguish developmental delay from ASD with direct observation of infant behavior may more accurately screen for ASD in EPs.
Objectives: To determine rates of positive screen for ASD at 18 to 22 months(m) in EPs using 3 screens; to determine factors associated with a positive screen.
Methods: Five hundred fifty-four infants born <27 weeks were screened at 18 to 22 m using the Pervasive Developmental Disorders Screening test, second edition Stage 2, and the response to name and response to joint attention items from the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule. Infants with severe cerebral palsy, deafness, and blindness were excluded. Associations between positive screen and neonatal/ infant characteristics were determined.
Results: Of 554 infants, 113 (20%) had ≥ 1 positive screen. 10% had a positive Pervasive Developmental Disorders Screening test, second edition, 6% response to name, 9% response to joint attention; in only 1 % all 3 screens were positive. Positive screen was associated with male gender, more hospital days, white race, lower maternal education, abnormal behavioral scores, and cognitive/ language delay.
Conclusions: The use of 3 screens for ASD in EPs results in higher screen positive rates than use of 1 screen alone. Diagnostic confirmation is needed before true rates of ASD in EPs are known.