A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Spring, 2023 | Number 2, Volume 36

Screening tool may be highly effective in spotting ASD in infants, toddlers

An early screening tool developed by researchers in Australia appears to be highly effective at detecting autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in infants and toddlers, according to a recent study. 

Josephine Barbaro and colleagues studied the accuracy of the tool, called the Social Attention and Communication Surveillance-Revised (SACS-R), in identifying cases of ASD in a group of more than 13,500 children in Australia. The test was administered at least once at the children’s 12-, 18-, and/or 24-month checkups. In addition, the researchers analyzed the effectiveness of combining this tool with the SACS-Preschool (SACS-PR) tool, designed to identify ASD in toddlers. The SACS-PR was administered at children’s 42-month checkup. 

The researchers report that 83 percent of infants and toddlers between 12 and 24 months of age who were flagged by the test later received an autism diagnosis. When clinicians combined the SACS-R and SACS-PR, 96 percent of children with ASD were identified by the time they were three and a half years of age. 

Barbaro notes that accurate screening of infants and toddlers can allow parents to seek early treatment. “Parents are often told to ‘wait and see’ when raising concerns about their child’s development,” she says. “This means the average age of diagnosis is around four to five, and opportunities for early supports have been missed.”

Barbaro and colleagues found that 83 percent of infants and toddlers between 12 and 24 months of age who were flagged by the SACS-R later received an autism diagnosis. When clinicians combined the SACS-R and SACS-PR, 96 percent of children with ASD were identified by the time they were three-anda-half years of age.

Citations

“Diagnostic accuracy of the Social Attention and Communication Surveillance-Revised with preschool tool for early autism detection in very young children,” Josephine Barbaro, Nancy Sadka, Melissa Gilbert, Erin Beattie, Xia Li, Lael Ridgway, Lauren P. Lawson, and Cheryl Dissanayake, JAMA Network Open, March 2022 (free online). Address: Josephine Barbaro, Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, School of Psychology and Public Health, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Australia 3086, [email protected]

—and-

 “Highly accurate tool for the detection of autism as early as 12 months of age,” news release, La Trobe University, March 11, 2022.