A five-year study of 13,500 children in Victoria found that SACS-R was extremely accurate in identifying very young children on the autism spectrum. Of infants and toddlers aged 12 to 24 months who were flagged by the tool, 83% were later diagnosed with autism.
When used in conjunction with the SACS-Preschool test, 96% of children on the autism spectrum were identified by their 3.5-year wellness screening.
Study leader, Associate Professor Josephine Barbaro, from La Trobe University’s Olga Tennison Autism Research Center (OTARC), says the study points to a critical need for SACS-R implementation and SACS-Preschool across Australia and the world. regular newborn health check-ups.
“Parents are often asked to ‘wait and see’ when raising concerns about their child’s development. This means that the average age of diagnosis is around 4-5 and the chances of getting it right. early support was missed”. Associate Professor Barbaro said.
“Leading this incredibly effective tool to a primary health professional trained to have them screen for autism during their routine check-ups also makes a huge difference in the diagnosis.” SACS-R is not only the world’s most effective screening tool, unlike many, it can be used in communities with large populations, allowing early identification of very young children across the globe. widespread, ” Associate Professor Barbaro said.
Every child in Victoria who has a routine checkup at 12, 18 and 24 months has been screened with the SACS-R tool after the Victorian Government funded a statewide training course for health nurses mothers and children in 2019.
The added SACS-Preschool tool can be used during the 3.5-year wellness check to increase the efficiency of the identification process – through training that is not currently funded in Victoria.
La Trobe Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar AO said the screening tool is a great example of high-impact research that can make a tangible difference in people’s lives.
“Early identification of autism with this tool has changed the lives of thousands of children and their families around the world” Professor Dewar said.
“An extraordinary contribution by La Trobe’s autism experts, this new study will likely lead to even more countries adopting this tool and bringing screening programs into their health systems.” surname.”
Early diagnosis of autism is important, as it leads to earlier access to supports, services and therapies. It improves developmental outcomes, increases participation in mainstream learning, and reduces the support needed as children get older.
The accuracy of autism screening tools used in other parts of the world is very limited, including the well-known M-CHAT, which is only 6% accurate when used in the community. . You can find more information about OTARC’s research on autism detection and diagnosis here.
Introduction to SACS-CHEAP tool
The Social Attention and Communication Monitoring (SACS-R) and SACS-Kindergarten (SACS-PR) tools were piloted using funding from the Autism Foundation CRC and Menzies.
Developed over 15 years by Associate Professor Barbaro, this tool is used to identify a set of behaviors characteristic of children from infancy to 11 months of age, including occasional or inconsistent use
- gestures, such as waving and pointing at objects
- react to the name being called
- Eye contact
- imitate or copy the activities of others
- share care with others
- pretend play
SACS-R is currently in use statewide in Victoria and Tasmania, and training was completed in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia.
Medical professionals in ten other countries around the world – including China, Singapore, Poland, Japan, New Zealand, Nepal and Bangladesh – have also been trained in how to use the tool.