Big news for the progress in early autism detection: Researchers at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School have developed a new tool that could help medical experts detect autism in toddlers. Considering toddlers are at the age where intervention could be crucial, this could be extremely beneficial for expanding early treatment.
In the new study, published in the <a target="blank" href="https://journals.lww.com/jrnldbp/Abstract/publishahead/Preliminary_Evaluation_of_a_Brief_Autism_Screener.99332.aspx">Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics_, researchers found that developing and providing a two-minute questionnaire for parents had an 88 percent likelihood of correctly identifying which kids had autism. Called the Psychological Development Questionnaire (PDQ-1), this new tool included questions for parents about whether their child points or gestures to show interest or get attention, responds to their name, and likes playing games like peek-a-boo.
The study analyzed 1,959 children between the ages of 18 months to 36 months old, who were screened through a network of pediatric practices. They were not known to have any developmental problems at the beginning of the study. Lead investigator Walter Zahorodny, PhD, said the findings support the use of PDQ-1 as a new screening method. Though the researchers caution that early autism detection is challenging and that no single method is guaranteed to work for all children, they believe the questionnaire is promising, practical, and deserving of wider study.
"Diagnosis of autism can only be accomplished through comprehensive evaluation by a professional," Dr. Zahorodny said. "Effective screening is but the first step toward diagnosis. If we want to improve early detection, easy-to-use and reliable autism screeners need to be widely used."
Zahorodny explained that too many children with autism — especially those living in low-income communities — are identified late.
"The availability of valid and efficient screeners, like the PDQ-1, may enhance our ability to detect ASD in young children and expand the number of youngsters receiving early intervention," Zahorodny said.
Anything that could possibly help more kids get the treatment they need is definitely something we're interested in! We can't wait to hear what future studies say about this questionnaire.
h/t Eureka Alert