Scientists develop simple questionnaire that can diagnose autism with up to 95% accuracy


Scientists develop simple questionnaire ‘that can diagnose autism with up to 95% accuracy’

  • New open-source questionnaire claims to screen for autism with high accuracy¬†
  • Parents are asked to answer just 39 questions on their child’s behavior
  • Study claims test is ‘major advance’ for early autism disorder diagnosis







A simple online survey can diagnose autism with up to 95 percent accuracy, a study suggests.

Researchers have developed a 39-item questionnaire to help parents navigate a notoriously tricky diagnosis process.

It is the latest promising development in autism screening, coming just days after officials started the approval process for a test that detects the disorder in hair.

The new¬†Autism Symptom Dimension Questionnaire¬†(ASDQ) – to be filled out by parents or caregivers – asks questions about the child’s behavior and how they react to social cues. But parents are still strongly advised to seek a doctor’s opinion.¬†

A simple online survey can diagnose autism with up to 95 percent accuracy, a study suggests (file image)

A simple online survey can diagnose autism with up to 95 percent accuracy, a study suggests (file image)

They include how often the child makes expected eye contact, plays with their peers, appears overly sensitive to loud noises and takes things too literally. 

Parents are asked to choose from a set of five ratings that indicate how often their child engages in such behaviors. 

Researchers from John Carroll University in Ohio described the survey as a¬†‘major advance’ in diagnosing autism.

They claimed the test was between 90 to 95 percent accurate at detecting signs of autism and was reliable across age, sex, race, and ethnicity.

The study looked at 1,467 children aged two to 17, including 104 with autism, across a range of household incomes and parental backgrounds.

The results were published in the journal Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology.  

Along with screening for autism, the test also can track and monitor autism symptoms over time. 

About one in 44 children in the US has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a number that continues to rise as the disorder is de-stigmatized.

Despite scientific and social advancements, however, ASD is still often only diagnosed well into childhood.

While the average age of diagnosis in the US is four years old, in the UK it is even older, at six. 

Because there is no standard test for the condition, doctors must rely on a child’s developmental history and behavior.

But experts say early intervention can make a huge difference, with early detection key in ensuring kids on the spectrum get the help they need. 

To receive an official diagnosis, children must still see a trained professional, but the ASDQ questionnaire represents another step towards a standardized test for autism. 

Screenings for ASD are advised at the 18-month and 24-month milestones,¬†whereby the child’s language, movement, and thinking skills, as well as behaviors and emotions, are tracked against the rest of their age group.

Formal diagnosis, however, must be handled by a trained specialist such as a developmental pediatrician or child psychologist.

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What is autism?

What does being autistic mean?

Being autistic does not mean you have an illness or disease. It means your brain works in a different way from other people.

It’s something you’re born with or first appears when you’re very young.

If you’re autistic, you’re autistic your whole life.

Autism is not a medical condition with treatments or a ‘cure’. But some people need support to help them with certain things.

Autistic people may:

find it hard to communicate and interact with other people

find things like bright lights or loud noises overwhelming, stressful or uncomfortable

find it hard to understand how other people think or feel

get anxious or upset about unfamiliar situations and social events

take longer to understand information

do or think the same things over and over

What causes autism?

It’s not clear what causes autism.

Nobody knows what causes autism, or if it has a cause. It can affect people in the same family. So it may sometimes be passed on to a child by their parents.

Autism is not caused by:

bad parenting

vaccines, such as the MMR vaccine


an infection you can spread to other people

Source: NHS