Since 2007, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that all children be screened for autism during their 18 and 24 month well-baby check-ups. Recent research suggests it is possible to identify children at risk of developing autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and thus begin treatment significantly earlier, around the child’s first birthday.

The research study screened children during their one-year well-baby check-up. Parents were asked to complete a simple 24 question questionnaire called the Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales Developmental Profile (CSBS DP) Infant-Toddler Checklist. Pediatricians scored the questionnaires and referred children whose scores fell below a certain range for further evaluation.

Of the 10,479 babies screened, 184 were referred for further evaluation. Of those 184 children, 37 were diagnosed with autism. After three more years of observation, 32 still met the criteria for autism. Considering that autism occurs in approximately 65 of every 10,000 children, the study’s results suggest the CSBS DP Infant-Toddler Checklist identify approximately 50 percent of children with autism.

This simple checklist could allow autistic children to be diagnosed and begin receiving treatment much earlier than the typical child with autism. The children identified in the study as having autism, for example, were referred for behavioral therapy at an average age of 17 months and began treatment at 19 months.

Parents should consult with their pediatricians about this screening approach. The Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales Developmental Profile (CSBS DP) Infant-Toddler Checklist and scoring instructions are also available online and can be downloaded for free here: