Japanese researchers suggest that high sensitivity tests can lead to better prognosis and improve the quality of life of children with autism.
A study by the Shinshu University, Japan, concluded that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be detected in health checkups of infants at 18 months of age. The research was published in July in the Journal of Autism and Development Disorders.
Conducted with children born in the city of Okaya between 2009 and 2012, the study investigated the incidence and risk factors related to ASD. But that was not all: the researchers wanted to know if the health checkups offered free of charge to all Japanese children at 18 months and 3 years of age were able to predict or help diagnose the condition.
The conclusion was positive. In total, 1,067 children (representing 85% of babies born during the study period) underwent standard free checkups at 18 months.
Among them, 3.1% were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder until the age of six, which is school age. In many of these children, impairments in motor and communication skills were observed during checkups at 18 months.
In the past 20 years, the number of people diagnosed with ASD has increased worldwide – not because there has, in fact, been an increase in the number of cases, but because medical research methods have improved over time.
The results of the study suggest that an early diagnosis would be possible through a careful screening system during health checkups in children at 18 months of age. Early diagnosis of ASD is essential for improving the quality of life of those on the spectrum.