An early screening test for autism, designed to detect signs of the condition in babies as young as 1 year old, has just been released. USA Today reports that the test “could revolutionize the care of autistic children, experts say, by getting them diagnosed and treated years earlier than usual.”
The 24-item “checklist takes just five minutes to complete and can be filled out in a family physician or pediatrician’s waiting room, when parents bring children for their routine 12-month checkup, says a study of more than 10,000 infants,” published in the Journal of Pediatrics.
The study was funded “by the National Institutes of Health and others.”
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports researchers at UCSD “say a promising tool in diagnosing autism early and getting treatment for the syndrome could start with asking parents to fill out a simple questionnaire at their baby’s one-year checkup.”
Dr. Karen Pierce, “assistant director of the UC San Diego Autism Center of Excellence, recruited 137 San Diego pediatricians for a study that has screened nearly 10,500 1-year-olds for a possible autism spectrum disorder or developmental delay, using a 24-item questionnaire.”
The questionnaire “has the potential for identifying children with autism early enough to get treatment while their brains are developing internal connections,” Pierce said.
The AP reports the research “is a first step in the quest for earlier autism screening.”
Experts “say early therapy can lessen autism’s severity, even if they don’t know exactly what types will prove best.”
Dr. Lisa Gilotty of the National Institute of Mental Health says, “The earlier you start, the better.”
The Washington Post reports by “allowing scientists to study children with autism when they are younger, it could also provide crucial new insights into the disease’s causes, further dispelling discredited theories about vaccines and other supposed risk factors, as well as leading to better ways to diagnose and treat the disorder.”
Thomas R. Insel of the National Institute of Mental Health said, “Beyond this exciting proof of concept, such a screening program would answer parents’ concerns . . . with more confidence than has ever been done before.”
So, if you or any of your friends have young children, this is one test you may want to utilize.