A precise tool can detect autism in babies as young as 12 months

Autism is a neurological disorder that is part of the group of autism spectrum disorders called (ASD) and that affects the ability to communicate and relate to other people. The disorder is usually diagnosed around four or five years of age, but a new, accurate tool can detect it in babies as young as 12 months .

Research has proven the effectiveness of this early detection tool for autism, developed by researchers at La Trobe University , which is already used in eleven countries and is capable of detecting the disorder more than three years earlier than traditional tests.

The study, which was published in the scientific journal JAMA Open , was carried out over five years with more than 13,500 children from Victoria, Australia, between 11 and 42 months of age.

It found that the new SACS-R tool is extremely accurate in identifying very young children with autism spectrum disorders. Of the infants and toddlers ages 12 to 24 months flagged by the tool, 83 percent were later diagnosed with autism . Check out more at our site.

This early detection tool for autism in young children is already used in 11 countries and is the most effective in the world.

When screened with preschool children (with SACS-Preschool), 96 percent of children on the autism spectrum were identified at their health checkups at 3.5 years.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Josephine Barbaro, from the Olga Tennison Autism Research Center (OTARC) at La Trobe University, said the research points to a critical need for SACS-R and SACS-Preschool to be implemented in Australia and the world , as part of regular child health checkups.

“Parents are often told to ‘wait and see’ when raising concerns about their child’s development. This means that the average age of diagnosis is around four to five years and opportunities for early support have been missed. ” said the teacher .

“ Putting this highly effective tool in the hands of a qualified healthcare professional, so that they too are screened for autism during routine health checkups, makes a world of difference for early detection. Barbaro continued.

What does this tool consist of?

The tools SACS-R ( Social Attention and Surveillance-Revised, in Spanish Study of Attention and Social Surveillance Revised -for children from 11 to 30 months) and SACS-Preschool (Study of Attention and Social Surveillance in Preschool age -of 3.5 to 5 years), are screening tools created for the early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder .

It has been developed over 15 years and is used to identify a set of behaviors that are characteristic of children with ASD from 11 months of age, including infrequent or inconsistent use of:

  • Gestures: infrequent or inconsistent use
  • Greet and point to objects
  • Answer to the call of your name
  • Eye contact
  • Imitation or copying the activities of others
  • Share the interest with others
  • simulation game

Early diagnosis of autism is essential, as it allows earlier access to supports, services and therapies. It improves developmental outcomes, increases participation in mainstream schooling, and reduces supports needed as children get older.

The accuracy of autism screening tools used in other parts of the world is very limited, including the well-known M-CHAT, which has an accuracy level of only 6% when used in a community population.

Prevalence of autism in young children

A secondary objective of the study was to establish the prevalence of autism in this community sample.

The prevalence was 1 in 50 (2.0%) between 11 and 30 months of age . This prevalence increased to 1 in 31 (3.3%) when children on the autism spectrum were identified at their 42-month visit.

This latter prevalence rate is higher than rates of 2.3% reported by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and 1.5% to 2.5% from an Australian longitudinal study of children under the age of 7 years.


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