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Study: updated autism screening tool may be more accurate

Generally, when it comes to mental and developmental disorders in children, the earlier a disorder is detected, the better. This is because earlier detection of a disorder often means earlier access to support and treatment for a child. Thus, tools that can help lead to earlier detection of developmental or mental disorders in children can be highly beneficial.

One type of mental/developmental disorder that children are sometimes diagnosed with is autism. Autism can have life-long effects on a child.

One type of screening tool that is sometimes used by doctors to try to help discover if their young patients are at risk of having autism is a parental questionnaire. Recently, an update was made to an existing parental questionnaire used by doctors. According to a recent study, the updated questionnaire has shown increased accuracy when it comes to indicating whether a child has a substantial risk of having autism.

The questionnaire is aimed at parents who have children who are in the 16-month to 30-month age range. In the questionnaire, parents are asked 20 questions regarding their child. Doctors are then to use the answers given to classify the child's autism risk as low, medium or high.

In the study, researchers reviewed data regarding over 16,000 children that the updated questionnaire was used in relation to. The researchers found that 47 percent of the children who were classified as having a medium or high autism risk based on their parents' answers to the questionnaire were ultimately found to have autism. This is a higher degree of accuracy than previously-used screening methods have shown.

An official with the organization which funded the research said that the updated questionnaire's improved accuracy could perhaps help lead to earlier autism diagnoses.

Source: Disability Scoop, "New Autism Screening Tool More Reliable, Study Finds," Shaun Heasley, Jan. 6, 2014

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