A checklist that takes about five minutes for a caregiver to complete can help clinicians identify autism in very young children. The Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales Developmental Profile Infant-Toddler Checklist is designed to be filled out at the child’s 1-year, well-baby checkup.

A team led by Karen Pierce, PhD, had 137 pediatricians screen a total of 10,479 infants at the 1-year appointment. Caregivers answered questions about the child’s eye gaze, sounds, words, gestures and other forms of age-appropriate communication. Children who failed the screen were referred for further testing and reevaluated every six months until age 3 years.

The brief screen was shown to provide an accurate diagnosis 75% of the time. “The 1-year Well-Baby Checkup Approach shows promise as a simple mechanism to detect cases of [autism spectrum disorder],” wrote Dr. Pierce and associates in their report, published online in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Pierce K et al. J Pediatrics. 2011; doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2011.02.036.