A Brief Questionnaire Can Help Detect Autism During Toddlerhood
by Neerja Anand
On 14 September, 2021
“Autism is part of my child. It’s not everything he is. My child is so much more than a diagnosis.” - Quote by S.L. Coelho.
Everyday research and studies conducted worldwide bring new discoveries and updates on various medical conditions & diagnosis. We are learning new things about our body, our mind, and our environment on a daily basis thanks to the dedication and advances made by scientists and researchers. This is also applicable the world of Autism or ASD. Cambridge University recently suggested that new research indicates that Autism can be detected early on as young as 18 months using the Quantitative Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (acronym Q-CHAT). Let it be stated that this methodology is not 100% accurate and there are chances of toddlers not being diagnosed even though they participate in the study. This is because many children do not reveal severe symptoms until a later age. The Autism Research Center in Cambridge undertook a survey of around 4,000 toddlers with a parent-report instrument created by the team at the center. Screenings were conducted when the toddlers were around 18 months old and followed -up when they turned 4 years old.
Q-CHAT is a revised version of the CHAT that was undertaken in the 1990s by the same set of researchers. Its fundamental elements are intact with the addition of new items that look into language development, repetitive and sensory-seeking behaviors, and some aspects of social communicative behavior. Each of the 25 sections contains a wide selection of response options, enabling the endorsement of a minimized rate of vital behaviors. In effect, this 'dimensionalises' each item (using a five-point scale of frequency), providing scope for divergence in replies and a deeper comprehension of the distributions across the specific traits. The revision of the methodology was necessitated by the need to improve screening for ASD among toddlers.
In the first part of the revised study, around 13,000 caregivers were invited to participate in the study of which 3,770 completed the same. 121 children were invited for an ASD assessment based on the findings of the study. In the 2nd phase, the sample group was followed up when the kids turned 4, using the Childhood Autism Screening Test (CAST), and a checklist enquiring whether any of the children had been referred or diagnosed with any developmental conditions, including autism. These assessments were based on internationally accepted methods. The success rate of Q-CHAT in predicting a child being on the spectrum was 44% while the success rate in determining that a child is not on the spectrum was a whopping 98%.
Detection of ASD at the earliest, allows for an enhanced quality of life for people with ASD and their families / caregivers. If you feel your child may have symptoms associated with autism, speak to your family pediatrician and begin the process for a diagnosis. We can help you with the same, so get in touch with us today.