A simple two-minute questionnaire could detect autism in children and toddlers, new research suggests.
The Psychological Development Questionnaire (PDQ-1) consists of 10 questions that help gauge how children interact with others, including whether the child points or gestures to show interest, responds to their name, and speaks in phrases.
Autism affects one in 45 children, but early detection of the disorder is challenging since there isn't a single behavioral or observational approach that will be reliable for all children.
However, researchers at Rutgers University believe the questionnaire, which had an 88 percent likelihood of correctly identifying children with autism, could help doctors detect the disorder in toddlers earlier, at a time when intervention might be crucial.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder characterized by difficulties with social interaction, communication challenges and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors, according to experts at Autism Speaks.
Since there isn't a medical test to diagnose autism, doctors have to examine the child's behavior and development to make a diagnosis.
A 2012 study published in NCHS Data Brief found more than half of school-aged children were five years old or older when they were first diagnosed with autism, while just 20 percent were diagnosed by the time they were two years old.
Experts say this delay could prevent children from getting the help they need at a crucial time.
It's also a lot harder to diagnose girls than boys since the criteria for identifying autism is developed specifically around males.
Researchers discovered the questionnaire had a positive predictive value of 88 percent, which means most of the children who tested positive for autism, actually had the disorder.
They were also surprised to find the new screening test correctly identified autism in children from all socioeconomic communities.