When it comes to autism, diagnostic speed is key. Treatments for the condition rely on early intervention therapies and the sooner in the life of a child with autism they begin, the better.
This week a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has shown that a revised Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers is now more accurate that previous versions. The checklist is a screening tool used to diagnose autism in children as young as 16 months old. The test evaluates children and ranks them in three risk categories, with the highest category meaning follow-up evaluations for autism.
“Earlier tools cast a wider net, but these refinements will allow health care providers to focus energy where it is needed most and will reduce the number of families who go through additional testing but which ultimately do not need treatment interventions,” said Deborah Fein, senior author of the study and a researcher at the University of Connecticut.
The study found that the revised checklist caught more cases of autism than older versions of the test. At the same time, the new checklist classified fewer children in the medium or high risk categories, meaning that the newer test is more accurate than previous versions.
“This checklist can more accurately identify children likely to have autism so they can get the treatment and support they need,” said Alice Kau, a researcjer at tje National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “Given that the typical autism diagnosis occurs at age four, it also offers the possibility of detecting autism much earlier - during regular doctor’s visits when a child is 18 months or two years old. And earlier intervention has been shown to improve outcomes for children with autism.”