The 12 questions that can detect autism in your child

Is your child autistic? The question strikes fear into the hearts of parents but scientists have now developed a screening test for autism which they say could detect the condition.

The 12-point questionnaire was more than 90 per cent accurate in identifying children who had been independently diagnosed with autism and could help identify other children with "functional impairment," researchers said.

The test could also be used to detect the condition in dysfunctional professors, train-spotters and others with eccentric habits who are popularly thought to share autistic traits.

In a trial run of the test at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, the mothers of more than 400 children, half of whom were autistic, filled in the questionnaire, which has a maximum score of 24. The autistic children on average scored 16 to 17, compared with two to three for other children.

A third group of children, referred to the hospital's clinic for social and communication disorders but not diagnosed as autistic, scored between 11 and 12.

The questionnaire was developed by Professor David Skuse and colleagues at the Institute of Child Health, London, and the findings are published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. Professor Skuse said there was disagreement among scientists about whether autism was a distinct abnormal condition or one end of the normal spectrum of behaviour. The test could help settle that dispute.

Between 60 and 100 children in 10,000 are thought to have autistic spectrum disorder, of whom 20 to 25 are diagnosed with classical autism. The condition normally develops in children before the age of two and leads to severe difficulties in communicating and forming relationships.

Professor Skuse said: "Autism probably isn't a separate condition. It is probably on a continuum with normal behaviour. The boundaries are not distinct - it is not a precipice but a gentle slope. If you have enough of these symptoms [identified on the questionnaire] you are likely to have social and educational difficulties that could affect your ability to fit in. You can't draw a line and say people with a score above have autism because it will depend on other factors. But, the higher your score, the more likely you are to have functional impairment."

Traits seen in autism were also seen in other conditions, lending support to the theory that the condition is on a continuum with normal behaviour.

"A lot of kids with conduct disorder who appear to be just naughty also have problems with language, leaping from subject to subject. We are increasingly recognising that these symptoms are not confined to autism," Professor Skuse said.

Current methods of identifying children with autism depend on GPs or health visitors recognising signs of the disorder and referring children for assessment. But many parents believe the condition is under-diagnosed as the assessment is expensive and too few children are referred.

"If this screening test were applied across a community of school-age children, we could get a sense of how many had autistic traits. The checklist could be used to establish its prevalence in the population," Professor Skuse said. The incidence of autism in Britain has been rising for more than a decade.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £26000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is Europe's indust...

    Recruitment Genius: Engineering Technician

    £17020 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Aerospace company is looki...

    Recruitment Genius: Company Bookkeeper

    £18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Bookkeeper is required to joi...

    Recruitment Genius: Site Manager

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to growth this company is seeking two Site...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen