Strong global interest in autism screening tool from Flinders
The Sector > Research > Strong global interest in autism screening tool from Flinders

Strong global interest in autism screening tool from Flinders

by Freya Lucas

June 17, 2024

There has been strong global interest in an early screening tool for autism spectrum disorder developed by researchers from Flinders University. 


Autism Spectrum Disorder, or autism, is a complex neurodevelopmental condition characterised by challenges in social interaction, communication and restricted or repetitive behaviours.


The global prevalence of autism is estimated to be around 1in 39, making it one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders.


Early diagnosis – by the age of 18-24 months – is pivotal in improving outcomes for children with autism. It provides opportunities for early support that can positively impact language, cognitive and social-emotional functioning.


Known as Autism Detection in Early Childhood (ADEC), the tool is already available in Australia and is now available free of charge to low-resource countries such as Indonesia, Mexico, China and Guayaquil (Ecuador).


“ADEC is an easy-to-use tool, requiring limited additional training, providing a cost-effective way to identify children who may have a high likelihood of developing autism,” Professor Robyn Young from the College of Education, Psychology and Social Work explained.


“Whilst many tools have been developed in English-speaking countries, screening in countries with other languages requires specific cultural and linguistic adaptation,” she continued.


“We hope the adaptation of ADEC for low-resource countries will allow for more efficient, reliable and cost-effective diagnoses and support.” 


Professor Young worked with a team of Flinders University researchers in Ecuador to help improve diagnostic methods for autism in local children. The pilot study translated and culturally adapted the original version of ADEC for the population of Guayaquil (Ecuador) for a sample of 613 children aged 18-48 months, of whom 23 were diagnosed with autism (3.75 per cent).


The findings, Professor Young said, indicate that while ADEC can be adapted for non-English speaking cultures , more still needs to be done.


“Whilst the study was successful, improving diagnosis doesn’t simplify the difficulties that autistic people have accessing support, particularly in a low socio-economic environment,” she emphasised.


“Early detection only makes sense if there is the possibility of developing early support, so our next steps will be to investigate the effects of early support programs implemented in non-English speaking low-resource countries like Ecuador,” she adds.


Access the findings in full here

Download The Sector's new App!

ECEC news, jobs, events and more anytime, anywhere.

Download App on Apple App Store Button Download App on Google Play Store Button