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This is the first tool that diagnoses autism from 12 months

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The screening method developed by Australian researchers successfully diagnoses autism in children aged 12 to 24 months, according to the researchers. That’s three years ahead of where we are now with present methods.

Researchers from Australia’s La Trobe University tested an early screening tool for autism in a five-year study involving more than 13,500 youngsters.

They discovered that 83 percent of toddlers aged 12 to 24 months who were “flagged by the tool” ultimately received an autistic diagnosis.

According to the researchers, this is around four years earlier than current standard tests. They claim that the earlier a person is diagnosed with autism, the better their life results will be.

“Children diagnosed early demonstrated better verbal and overall cognition at school age, were more likely to attend mainstream school and required less ongoing support than children diagnosed later,” said lead researcher Josephine Barbaro in an email to DW.

Autism is neither a disease or a medical condition that can or should be cured. It is a component of a person’s personality and their entire life. People with autism, on the other hand, may find it difficult to communicate and engage with others, as well as respond to sensory triggers such as bright lights or loud noises without feeling overwhelmed.

The Social Attention and Communication Surveillance or SACS tool

Autism is typically diagnosed between the ages of 4 and 6 years old using current tests like M-CHAT (Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers).

SACS (Social Attention and Communication Surveillance) is a new tool with two parts: SACS-Revised and SACS-Preschool.

When M-CHAT was used in conjunction with the new tool on preschool-aged children, their 3.5-year health check revealed 96 percent of children on the autistic spectrum.

M-CHAT had “a pooled positive predictive value (or accuracy) of 6%” when employed in so-called “low risk” community settings, according to a meta-analysis of 13 trials, which was lower than SACS-83 R’s percent accuracy.

The SACS tool has been translated into eight languages and is currently being utilized in 11 countries, including Bangladesh, China, Italy, Japan, Nepal, New Zealand, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, and England.

Diagnosis is difficult

Barbaro, who works at the Olga Tennison Autism Research Center at La Trobe University, wants to see the tool utilized even more extensively.

“Putting this extremely effective tool in the hands of a trained primary health professional, so that during their routine health checks they are also screening for autism, makes a huge difference to early diagnosis,” added Barbaro.

Another Australian study found that therapy to aid social development in babies with early indications of autism can be quite beneficial.

Because there is no medical test, such as a blood test, diagnosing autism later in life can be “difficult,” according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To determine a diagnosis, doctors look at a child’s developmental history as well as their behavior.

Source: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.46415

Image Credit: Getty

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