To assess the progress of the Healthy People 2020 (HP2020) objective to increase the proportion of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who receive treatment by 48 months old and to examine the relationship between predisposing, enabling, and need factors and age of initial treatment receipt.
We used data from the National Survey of Children's Health, 2016 to 2017, a nationally representative study of US children. Our sample included children aged 3 to 17 years old with ASD who received treatment (N = 1333). We conducted χ2 goodness of fit tests and logistic regression.
The HP2020 objective to enroll 57.6% of 8-year-old children with ASD in treatment by 48 months old was not met (40.9%). Among 3- to 5-year-old children with ASD, the proportion who received treatment by 48 months old was more than double that of 8-year-old children (88.3%). We detected social inequities and significant differences by provider type and state mandate.
Research with larger samples is needed to continue tracking progress. If the goal continues not to be met, work will be required to explain stagnation and to inform additional targeted efforts to reduce the age of initial treatment.