Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are developmental disabilities that cause social interaction, communication and behavioural changes. 1 in every 68 children is diagnosed with ACD. Recognizing early signs is difficult, but of high importance, because early treatment provides better outcomes.
Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School created a new screening test that could lead to faster detection of the disease.
“It’s tremendous for autism spectrum disorder,” Dr. Roula Choueiri, chief of division of developmental and behavioural pediatrics at UMass Medical School declared “We really need to encourage, educate and push for ways we can recognize early autism signs and get toddlers to diagnoses and [therefore] access to services. We see it, clinically, every day— children improve tremendously.”
Recognizing autism signs is difficult, especially for first time parents. “It’s very hard to put the onus on parents to bring up their concerns to the pediatrician or family practice physician,” Dr. Choueiri said. “This is why we recommend doing regular screenings. There are developmental screenings pediatricians can do with parents to try to illicit if this child is where he or she should be, development-wise.”
Lack of interest for other children interaction, avoidance of eye contact, language delay, lack of attention could all be signs of autism. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening tests for ASD for children at 18 months and 24 months of age.
New screening test, called RITA-T, is a 10 minutes interactive and easy-to-use test that helps clinicians better asses specific symptoms, through analysing 9 reactions that could signal ASD: joint attention, social awareness, reaction to emotions, awareness of human agency and several cognitive skills.
Observing patients’ progress at early stage diagnosis, researchers hope that RITA-T test will provide faster intervention and a changed course of the disorder for under 3 years old ASD suffering children.