Autism is a condition that affects many children worldwide. An estimated 500,000 children have it in the United States alone.
This amounts to 2-6 children out of every 1,000 in the U.S. having autism. The biggest concern about autism is that most children go a long time without the condition ever being detected. A new study is showing that a five-minute questionnaire may allow parents to detect autism in infants as young as 12 months old.
Need to Detect Autism Early
Researchers believe it’s important for parents to detect autism in infants because it allows treatment to begin as soon as possible.
They hope that by giving them early treatment, they will be able to develop and learn things better at a later age. The problem facing most parents is that they often don’t detect autism soon enough.
Some children don’t receive treatment for autism until they actually begin school. It takes a while for parents to notice autistic behavior and to have it actually diagnosed. The average age of diagnosis is 5 years old. However, most children start showing signs of autism before they reach the age of 3.
Diagnosing autism up to this point has been very difficult. There are no biological markers to help in diagnosis, and all that is available are behavioral clues. Researchers believe detecting autism early in infants will give them a chance to understand what causes autism at a neurological level. This in turn will lead to even more treatment possibilities.
Most of the current data on autism has been done mainly with older children and adults. Early detection of autism will widen the ages they have information on.
The Five-Minute Questionnaire
The questionnaire is made up of 24 simple items that parents can go through to help them determine if their infant may have autism.
The questions target things like how their child communicates with eye contact, sounds and gestures. The University of California in San Diego had parents go through the questionnaire for 10,479 infants.
Of the more than 10,000 infants that participated in the study, 184 scored as being at risk for autism. They were referred to the UCSD’s Autism Center for Excellence. The children were evaluated every three months, and this went on until they reached 3 years old. Thirty-two of the children have been diagnosed with autism and 56 with a learning disorder.
The questionnaire was shown to have a 75 percent accuracy rate of detecting autism in infants.
Dr. Karen Pierce was one of the researchers at the UCSD. Dr Pierces says, “The opportunity to diagnose and thus begin treatment for autism around a child’s first birthday has enormous potential to change outcomes for children affected with the disorder.”
The Questionnaire is Easy to Implement
The great thing about a five-minute questionnaire is that it can be done in the waiting room before a one-year check up.
The study shows that infants start showing signs of autism at 12 months. The questionnaire provides parents the earliest possible chance of detecting it. Of the 137 San Diego pediatricians that participated in the study, most said it was an effective tool that they would like to use.
The researchers hope that this questionnaire will be integrated into all one-year check-ups of infants.
Autism in Infants: UCSD Study
Autism in Infants: San Diego Pediatrician Involvement
Autism in Infants: Accuracy of Test
Autism Statistics: Overview