On average, most kids with autism aren't diagnosed until age 5. But that may soon change, thanks to a 5-minute checklist that can help identify signs of autism in kids at age 1.
The Journal of Pediatrics published a study today on the waiting-room checklist that San Diego pediatricians used at the 12-month check-up of about 10,000 babies. Parents filled out the 24-item checklist, doctors made any predictions of autism or developmental delays, and the babies were examined again over the following two years to see if they actually had the issues their doctor predicted.
The checklist had a 75 percent accuracy rate for predicting some problem (either autism or another language or developmental delay) in the children screened. But that means that one in four kids who were predicted to have a developmental disorder received a false alarm. The screening tool needs further work before it could be used broadly, physicians say.
Hearing a prediction of autism when your child is age 1 is not good news. However, the positives of this new, fairly quick waiting-room checklist are that it may eventually do some of the work that thousands of dollars of follow-up autism screenings do, and that children with autism can receive therapies at an earlier age and be placed in the appropriate school programs early on.
Doctors currently don't start screening for autism until around age 2, and many children aren't diagnosed until they have already entered elementary school.
April is Autism Awareness Month. One in 100 children in the U.S. has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to recent estimates. Everyone can benefit from learning more about autism and ASD.