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Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center

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5-Minute Screen for Signs of Autism Works in 1-Year-Olds

In Study, Screen Detected Signs of Autism, Other Developmental Problems 75% of the Time

Screen for Autism: A Closer Look continued...

The doctors screened 10,479 infants. Of them, 1,318 children failed. Pierce evaluated 184 of the children who failed the screen and were evaluated for autism, autism spectrum disorder, language delays, or other developmental delays. The researchers also tracked 41 of the 9,161 children who passed the checklist, who served as a comparison group.

To date, 32 of the children got a final or provisional diagnosis of autism or autism spectrum disorder, which encompasses a wider spectrum of developmental problems. Another 46 received a false-positive diagnosis of autism, uncovered with evaluation.

Five babies who tested positive for ASD later no longer met the criteria. Fifty-six were diagnosed with learning disabilities, nine with developmental problems, and 36 with "other" developmental problems.

It is critical, Pierce says, that a doctor who uses the screen has access to a center where he can refer patients for more evaluation.

In 2007, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a report introducing universal screening for autism at ages 18 months and 24 months.

Screen for Autism: Perspective

The new finding is an important step forward, says Geraldine Dawson, PhD. She is the chief science officer for Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks supported the study as did the Organization for Autism Research and the National Institute of Mental Health.

"We do know that many babies who go on to develop autism begin to show symptoms early on," she says.

It may be half or more of all children with autism, she says.

''For babies who have this pattern of early onset, to use a screen that is quick and can be used in a pediatrician's office efficiently is of great value," she says. The earlier autism is detected, the earlier intervention can begin.

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