Researchers at the Rutgers University Medical School created a two-minute-long questionnaire for parents to try and discern if their toddler has autism.
The Psychological Development Questionnaire (PDQ-1) asks parents to answer a list of questions pertaining to their child that their pediatrician then uses as an aid to help diagnose autism. The goal of the test is to detect the disorder early in a childs life, when intervention therapies are most crucial, according to the study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.
During trials, the researchers said that the PDQ-1 had an 88% positive rating in correctly identifying which of the 1,959 18 to 36-month-olds tested had autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
“Even though autism awareness is high in New Jersey and we have some excellent resources, too many children, especially from low-income communities, are identified late,” lead investigator Walter Zahorodny told Rutgers Today. “The availability of valid and efficient screeners, like the PDQ-1, may enhance our ability to detect ASD in young children and expand the number of youngsters receiving early intervention.”
Some of the tests questions for parents include whether the child responds to his or name, speaks in phrases, plays peek-a-boo, points or gestures to show interest and relates to others.
About one in 68 children have ASD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and although pediatricians are strongly urged by the American Academy of Pediatricians to screen all children between 18 and 24-months-old for the disorder, it’s estimated that only about half do.
Early detection of ASD is difficult but Zahorodny believes that the PDQ-1 may be a better alternative to current existing tests like the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers.
“Diagnosis of autism can only be accomplished through comprehensive evaluation by a professional,” Zahorodny said. “Effective screening is but the first step toward diagnosis. If we want to improve early detection, easy-to-use and reliable autism screeners need to be widely used.”