A study published Thursday in the Journal of Pediatrics found that a simple 24-question checklist answered by parents at their baby’s 12-month checkup may help to identify autism earlier. The study was designed to find early communication delays and was performed on about 10,500 babies in the San Diego area. The 5-minute questionnaire asked basic questions about eye contact, gestures and other communication skills. Babies who failed were sent for additional testing and tracked until age 3.
Of the 10,500 babies, 184 were referred for more evaluation, 32 were later diagnosed with autism and 46 had false positives for autism. Experts believe the study identified about half of autism cases. The findings are important because early treatment of autism can result in fewer autism symptoms, better behavior and higher IQ’s. Currently, the median age of autism diagnosis is around 5 years old. Some children develop normally and then regress into autism after age one, so the questionnaire would not diagnose all cases of autism. Still, the checklist shows promise as a tool for parents and pediatricians in improving outcomes of children with delays.
The checklist, entitled CSBS DP (Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales Developmental Profile) Infant-Toddler Checklist, is available online.