Spring 2010: Of Note

Autism? A new five-minute assessment

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With autism and related disorders, time is of the essence. The younger a child is when diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the earlier the intervention and the better the chance of a successful outcome.

The Emory Autism Resource Center and the Health Systems Institute at Georgia Institute of Technology have developed an assessment designed to help pediatricians identify children at risk for autism spectrum disorder. A pilot test on the Rapid Attention Back and Forth Communication (Rapid ABC) screener is being conducted at Emory and Georgia Tech.

Guidelines released by the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that pediatricians screen infants for ASD during their eighteen-month and twenty-four-month well-baby visits. A typical evaluation to diagnose ASD takes from two to four hours to complete.

The Rapid ABC screener, however, is designed for use in a pediatrician’s office and takes about three to five minutes to complete. It includes activities that test gesturing, attention level, body language, and eye contact.

One in 150 children in the United States has some form of autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This technology has the potential to give pediatricians an efficient way to identify these children at a time when they can benefit the most,” says Opal Ousley, principal investigator of the study and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

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