Autism can be reliably detected at ages as young as 14 months

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) screenings can begin as young as 14 months old, according to a new study, while retaining high accuracy. This is a few months earlier than the minimum 18-month-old age recommendation for ASD screenings, which happen at regular doctor visits. The findings were detailed in a study recently published in the JAMA Pediatrics journal.

Under current recommendations, children are screened for autism during doctor visits at 18 and 24 months old. According to the new study, however, starting the screening process at 14 months old offers a reliable diagnoses and paves the way for starting therapy at an earlier age.

There are multiple potential benefits to starting therapy at an earlier age, including presenting those treatments when the brain is at its most plastic state; as well, early treatments may enable kids to better succeed in school by giving them more time to develop necessary skills.

The study involved 1,269 toddler-aged participants that were screened for ASD and signs of general delays in development from 2006 to 2018. Toddlers that failed the screening were then sent for a more comprehensive evaluation, which happened initially from ages 12 to 36 months old throughout the study period.

Based on data from more than 3,000 evaluations, the study found that initial autism diagnoses that happened at approximately 14 months old were more stable than in others who weren't diagnosed the first time around. Additional follow-up research on the study's participants is planned.