Simple checklist may spot signs of autism by age 1

A simple checklist that parents fill out in the waiting room may help doctors someday screen for warning signs of autism as early as a baby`s first birthday.

San Diego pediatricians tested the tool with more than 10,000 babies at their 1-year checkups, looking for such things as how the tots babble, gesture and interact with others.

The research, being published on April 28, is a first step in the quest for earlier autism screening. It`s not ready for routine use, as more work is needed to verify its accuracy. But it also may prove valuable in finding more at-risk babies to study what causes the developmental disorder.

The study uses a 24-question checklist written in easy-to-understand terms that parents can answer in about five minutes. It was developed a few years ago to detect broader signs of language or developmental delays. Pierce signed up 137 pediatricians to use the questionnaire during every 1-year checkup and refer babies who failed for further testing. Those youngsters were re-evaluated every six months to age 3, when a diagnosis could be certain.

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