When it comes to diagnosing autism, experts know the earlier parents have their child’s condition confirmed, the better.
That’s why researchers are so excited about a test proven to accurately detect autism in children as young as 18 months.
The questionnaire, which parents can do themselves, takes just two minutes to complete and asks parents things like whether the child responds their name, plays peek-a-boo, speaks in phrases and points or gestures. American parents will then be able to take the results to their doctor for a formal diagnosis.
Listen: Clare Stephens and Laura Brodnik discuss Atypical, Netflix’s brilliant drama about teenager on the autism spectrum. (Post continues…)
Researchers at the Rutgers University Medical School in New Jersey developed the Psychological Development Questionnaire. They found the test had an 88 percent success rate in correctly identifying which of the 1959 18 to 36-month-olds tested had autism spectrum disorder.
The questionnaire is still being evaluated for its accuracy, but can be accessed here.
Amaze is the peak body for people on the autism spectrum and their families in Victoria. Chief executive Fiona Sharkie said this test is “great”, but pointed out that another at-home test is already available for parents in Australia to use.
It’s called ASDetect and is a free app parents can download. It was developed at Latrobe University over a number of years and is based on “rigorous” research, Sharkie explained.
“It’s been tested on around 30,000 people and it can detect at 12 months old, so even earlier [than the US study’s test].”
Sharkie told Mamamia the quiz, which takes about 20 minutes to complete, includes videos to help parents more easily recognise behaviours in their own children.
Like the US-developed questionnaire, parents can also take the results of this test – which will tell them the likelihood their child has autism or other developmental delays – to their GP to pursue a formal diagnosis.
Watch: Author Kathy Lette on why we should change the way we view autism.
Sharkie said tests like this were great because they offered a chance for parents to have their children formally diagnosed much earlier than the current average age of around three to four years old.
“Early detection of autism is absolutely critical because the earlier children are diagnosed, the earlier they can receive support,” she said.
“So whether that child needs help with speech or behaviour, or physical difficulties or sensory sensitivities, they can be supported.
“The earlier the child is able to be supported in their autism symptoms, the better it is for them in their learning and social interaction. So that really helps them with their development overall.”
Sharkie said it can take on average 12 to 18 months after first suspicions for parents to receive a formal diagnosis for their child, which she said is too long.
Instead, Amaze would like to see this become an average of three months, which to do so would also need the support of governments so waitlists can be shortened, Sharkie explained.
“If kids have to wait another 12 months, there’s so much that could be done in those 12 months that they’re waiting… it’s really 12 months wasted.”
“So having tools like this, whether it’s the new test in the study or ASDetect is just so great in raising the issue or confirming the suspicion of developmental delay or early signs of autism that really assists families.”
Too much noise and not enough time?