Test For Autism In 5 Minutes

Rapid ABC Uses 5 Simple Activities To Screen For Autism

New guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that all children be screened for autism at 18 months and 2 years old. A typical evaluation to diagnose autism can take two to four hours. But now a quick new screening test can help doctors determine if a toddler is at risk.

Even before Ben Crowther's first birthday, his mom started worrying about autism.

"He wasn't imitating us. He wasn't pointing or clapping or playing any of those sort of interactive games, " Katy Crowther said.

Though her pediatrician told her it was too early, Crowther pushed for autism testing at just 14 months. Early intervention has made all the difference.

"There's still a gap between Ben and his typical peers that you can see, but he has caught up tremendously," Crowther said.

Rapid ABC is a new screening that uses simple activities to test for autism. Experts check to see how toddlers respond to activities like having their name called, looking at a book, being tickled and playing ball.

The five-minute screening targets attention, reciprocity and communication in children ages 15 to 17 months. Once it's complete, a software program computes a score. If autism is suspected, the child will undergo further testing.

"There really isn't something quick and rapid like the ABC out there where pediatricians can interact for just three to five minutes," said Jenny Mathys, a social worker at the Emory Autism Center in Atlanta.

"It'll help parents and myself to feel comfortable that I'm doing everything I can to identify if there was an issue," said Jessica Sales, whose son, Cooper, was tested.

The Rapid ABC test was developed by Emory University and Georgia Tech. Studies show it's accurate in identifying toddlers at risk for autism spectrum disorders who need further testing and intervention. Researchers said the goal now is to make the test part of regular pediatric checkups at 18 months and 24 months.

AUTISM: Autism spectrum disorders are found in about one of every 110 children in the United States. ASDs are developmental disabilities that can cause significant communication, social and behavioral challenges. People who have an ASD usually handle information differently, and it affects each person in different ways, especially in regards to symptoms and severity. Autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder are types of ASDs. Autistic disorder, also coined "classic autism," is characterized by language delays, social challenges and abnormal behaviors or interests. Asperger syndrome is considered a milder autistic disorder, without the language or intellectual disability. Pervasive developmental disorder includes people who only meet some of the criteria for autistic disorder or Asperger syndrome. Signs of ASDs typically begin before the age of 3. Many children experience symptoms such as obsessive interests, unusual reactions to the five senses, getting upset over minor changes, repeating of words, avoiding eye contact, not responding to their name by 12 months and not pointing at interesting objects. (Source: Centers For Disease Control)

TRADITIONAL DIAGNOSIS: There is no blood test or easy diagnosis for ASDs. Instead, many doctors take notice to a child's behavior to make a diagnosis. In most cases, autism often appears by 18 months, and early diagnosis is key to a better chance for significant improvement for the child. There are two key steps to diagnosing ASDs: developmental screening and comprehensive diagnostic evaluation. In most cases, an initial diagnosis takes two to four hours to complete. Many doctors believe children should be tested for developmental screenings at regular child checkups -- at 9 months, 18 months, 24 or 30 months -- and continued screening if the child is at high risk. If the doctor recognizes any delays in the way the child learns, speaks, moves or behaves, it is necessary to go to step 2. A comprehensive diagnostic evaluation includes hearing/vision screenings, neurological testing, genetic testing and medical testing. (Source: Mayo Clinic)

RAPID ABC: Rapid Attention Back and Forth Communication screener, or Rapid ABC, was developed by the Emory Autism Resource Center and Georgia Tech University. The Rapid ABC is designed to assess a child's risk for ASDs during a regular checkup in a pediatrician's office. The test takes three to five minutes and includes five activities. The activities test gesturing, attention level, body language and eye contact. All the results are then scanned and scored by a software program. This scanning system secures a continuity of care and keeps track of patient's history of behaviors to see regressions that can lead to early detection. (Source: Emory University)