An early screening tool for autism developed by Australian researchers at La Trobe University was deemed the world’s most effective in detection for young children.
First released online in JAMA, the study spanned five years and included nearly 13,500 young children from Victoria.
According to researchers, detection of autism in very young children was made evident after infants and toddlers aged 12 to 24 months had been diagnosed using the tool. As many as 83 percent of the sample involved received a diagnosis of autism using the tool.
Known as the Social Attention and Communication Surveillance-Revised (SACS-R) tool, it spots a set of behaviors regarded as hallmark of autism in children as young as 11 months old.
The behaviors of focus involve infrequent or inconsistent use of gestures, eye contact, imitation, pretend play, sharing interest with others, and response to name being called.
“Diagnostic accuracy of the SACS-R and SACS-PR was determined by comparing children’s likelihood for autism with their diagnostic outcome using clinical judgment based on standard autism assessments (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule–Second Edition and Autism Diagnostic Interview–Revised),” the study says.
“The SACS-R with SACS-PR (SACS-R+PR) had high diagnostic accuracy for the identification of autism in a community-based sample of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, indicating the utility of early autism developmental surveillance from infancy to the preschool period rather than 1-time screening.”
“Its greater accuracy compared with psychometrics of commonly used autism screening tools when used in community-based samples suggests that the SACS-R+PR can be used universally for the early identification of autism,” researchers concluded.