A 5-minute test that could spot autism in infants

Spotting Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at an early age is invaluable for treatment. The first symptoms of the disorder usually manifest when children are two, and there is often a significant delay between when parents spot the signs and when they tell their doctor. But a new paper published in the Journal of Pediatrics proposes a simple, five-minute checklist that parents could run through with their one-year-olds, to identify ASD early.

The questionare looks at "a child's use of eye gaze, sounds, words, gestures, objects and other forms of age-appropriate communication," and while it wouldn't be an absolute test, it would allow for doctors to keep an eye on children who could develop the disorder, and make sure they're tested regularly. Early detection means early treatment, which can greatly improve learning and development later in life.

Out of 10,479 infants screened with this method, 184 children received scores that doctors felt were warning signs. Of those, 32 were lated diagnosed with ASD, 56 with language delay, and nine with developmental delay — these results are in line with the expected numbers at that age.

The survey would be given at the one-year "well baby" checkup that's recommended for all children.

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