A recent study in the current issue of the Journal of Pediatrics has shown that a simple five minute checklist which can be completed by parents at the one year well baby check up can successfully identify autism spectrum disorders, language delay, and developmental delay. The checklist asks parents about an infant’s use of eye gaze, sounds, words, gestures, and other forms of age-appropriate communication. In the past, the median age of diagnosis of autism has been 5.7 years, with treatment usually beginning much later. The diagnosis usually occurs after the start of school, and causes a delay in the initiation of treatment of autism. Early detection and diagnosis can help children meet future developmental milestones. In the current study, 137 pediatricians in the San Diego region participated and screened 10,479 infants. Of these infants, 184 infants failed the screen and were tracked for further evidence of autism and other developmental delay disorders every 6 months until the age of 3 years. Of these children, the ones who continued to have developmental delays were referred for treatment on average at the age of 17 months. This is much younger than the current age of diagnosis and initiation of treatment. Future studies will have to further validate and confirm the results. This program is beneficial as it will raise awareness for the need of early screening and initiation of treatment. About one in 110 children in the U.S. have autism or autism spectrum disorder, and this study will help identify them at an earlier age and help them meet their developmental milestones.
Pierce K, Carter C, Weinfeld M, Desmond J, Hazin R, Bjork R, Gallagher N. Catching, Studying, and Treating Autism Early: The 1-Yr Well-Baby Check-Up Approach. J Pediatr. 2011 Apr. [Epub ahead of print]