Tool to accurately detect autism in infants, toddlers and preschoolers


Recent search Posted in NEVER open identifies the world’s most effective screening tool for identifying and diagnosing autism in infants and toddlers. This screening tool, developed by La Trobe University, Australia, is currently used in 11 countries.

The research team, led by Associate Professor Josephine Barbaro of the Olga Tennison Autism Research Center (OTARC) at La Trobe University, sought to determine whether a developmental monitoring approach could be used to train professionals to accurately detect autism in infants, toddlers and preschoolers. on the spectrum.

Professor Josephine Barbara undertakes tests

LA Trobe University

The study tracked the progress of more than 13,500 children aged 11 to 42 months over five years. Using the Social Attention and Communication Surveillance-Revised (SACS-R) and SACS-Preschool (SACS-PR) tools, maternal and child health nurses attempted to identify children at high likelihood of autism between 11 and 30 months and a follow-up at 42 months.

Of the children identified with the SACS-R tool, 83% were later diagnosed with autism. Combined with follow-up with the SACS-Preschool checkup, 96% of the children were identified by their three and a half year health checkup.

According to Barbaro, this research underscores a critical need to deploy the SCAS-R and SACS-Preschool tool worldwide as part of routine infant health checkups. Early identification is crucial for children with autism and their families because it facilitates early diagnosis and access to supports and services, which dramatically improves outcomes. Currently, the average age of diagnosis is around four years.

“Parents are often told to ‘wait and see’ when raising concerns about their child’s development. This means that the average age of diagnosis is around four to five years old and opportunities for early support have been missed,” said Barbaro.

“Not only is SACS-R the most effective screening tool in the world, unlike many others, it can be used within the community on large populations, allowing early identification from very young children to all levels”, according to Barbaro.

The accuracy of autism screening tools used in other parts of the world is very limited, including the well-known M-CHAT, which has an accuracy level of only 6% when used in a community population. .

About the SACS-R tool

The Social Attention and Communication Surveillance-Revised (SACS-R) and SACS-Preschool (SACS-PR) tools were tested with funding from the Autism CRC and the Menzies Foundation.

Developed over 15 years by Barbaro, the tool is used to identify a set of behaviors characteristic of children on the spectrum as young as 11 months old, including infrequent or inconsistent use of:

  • Gestures, like waving and pointing at objects.
  • Answer on called name.
  • Contact lenses.
  • Imitating or copying the activities of others.
  • Share interest with others.
  • Pretend to play.

Currently, SACS-R is used by 11 countries around the world, including Australia, China, Singapore, Poland, Japan, New Zealand, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Barbaro J, Sadka N, Gilbert M, et al. Diagnostic accuracy of social attention and communication monitoring – revised with the preschool tool for the early detection of autism in very young children. JAMA Netw Open.

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