The CDC recently encouraged all primary care physicians to follow guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics to screen children aged 3 years and younger for developmental disabilities. The recommendation comes in the wake of a recent report that showed the prevalence of autism increased to 1 in 59 children in 2014, up from 1 in 68 in a previous reporting period.

Other data in the report was troubling, a CDC official said, pointing to a finding that 17 of every 20 children in the agency’s Autism and Developmental Disability Monitoring Network ultimately diagnosed with autism in 2014 had a developmental concern by the age of 3 — but only eight of every 20 children had undergone a developmental evaluation by that same age.

Even if a child has not received a diagnosis of autism, the sooner a child has a developmental evaluation, the sooner that child can be connected with services that can address specific impairments and can start them on the way to give them a better chance of reaching their full developmental potential. Some have shown there were concerns early on that were noted in the child’s health or education records, but it took longer to get the child into evaluation and thus, into the services Parents and doctors need to recognize that a child may not be developing appropriately and then refer the child for follow-up evaluation and services, as need be.

Therefore the CDC is encouraging all primary care physicians to follow the AAP guidelines of screening children aged 3 years and younger for developmental disabilities. The agency’s tools, such as those from ‘Learn the Signs. Act Early,’ available from the CDC’s website, provide information for parents on monitoring social, emotional, language, communication, cognitive, movement and physical development milestones children should be reaching from age 2 months to 5 years.