Scope of Practice

Medical Assistants Help Prepare Autism Screening Toolkit

The Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development approached me recently with information regarding a grant proposal being sent to the Autism Speaks organization. The university is proposing to create a toolkit that would help medical assistants screen toddlers—especially children of Hispanic nationality—for autism. Below are key statements from the letter I sent in response on May 25:

  • The disparities in age and rate of diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders among children from Latino families is very worrisome, especially since we know that children who are misdiagnosed or diagnosed late miss out on evidence-based early intervention that holds so much promise for their futures.
  • The demands within pediatrics have grown so much that it is challenging to implement policies such as the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation for universal autism screening at 18 and 24 months.
  • Usually screening is accomplished by having the medical assistant hand a questionnaire to the parents. When parents cannot read, however, the medical assistant is the ideal person to help them complete the process.
  • This proposal stands out, because it provides a way to properly prepare bilingual medical assistants to do the screening and also to sustain their efforts by training others.
  • The AAMA especially appreciates that the proposal recognizes medical assistants’ leadership role within their scope of practice.

Medical assistants will be imperative to the kit’s creation, by being involved in the planning process and helping to refine details. After implementation, they will provide feedback to contribute to its success, as well.

The AAMA strongly supports this proposal. It will improve outcomes for Latino children’s health and raise autism awareness nationwide. In addition, the proposal will spotlight the powerful skill set medical assistants possess, and the contributions each can make.