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Baby checks 'could spot autism'

US experts have said asking parents a number of simple questions during one-year baby checks could help to spot early signs of autism.

Normally the condition, which affects how the child is able to relate and interact with other people, is only spotted years later.

But their study has shown that examining a young child's use of sound, words, gestures and eye contact can determine whether more detailed screening is needed.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, examined 10,479 one-year-olds, with 184 failing the check up and being sent for further evaluation.

So far 32 of the children have been given a provisional or final diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder while another 101 have been found to have other conditions that involve developmental delay.

These rates, say the authors, are typical of what you might expect to see in a population of this size, suggesting that the screening could work.

The Journal of Pediatrics has published their findings.

Lead researcher Karen Pierce said: "Given lack of universal screening of infants for such disorders at 12 months, this programme could be adopted by any paediatric office, at virtually no cost, to aid in the identification of children with developmental delays.

"Importantly, parents will be able to get help for their children at a much earlier age than before."

Copyright © Press Association 2011

Journal of Pediatrics

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"Excellent research. Since these questions are not used in GB what is the value to toddlers if the practice is adopted and up to what age? I have twin grandsons 23/12" - Helen Jones

"How do we do this? What are the questions because I would ask them? What a breakthrough!" - J Shaw, Staffordshire