The release of the new Autism & Beyond app gives parents the ability to prescreen their young children for autism spectrum disorder — without the assistance of a medical professional.
Given that parents are inherently biased when it comes to their own children, one could certainly ask: Is it a good idea to give parents this kind of diagnostic power?
Until now, parents who were concerned about their child’s development had few options.
They relied on the Modified Checklist of Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT).
Under this system, parents would answer questions on the checklist to determine whether their child may be on the autism spectrum and if they should seek medical support.
Parents could also go directly to their medical professional with their concerns — if they had access and the resources to cover the screening costs.
Many children wait months and even years until they’re adequately assessed.
And even then, access and resources don’t always lead to a diagnosis because medical experts can have difficulty identifying whether a child is on the spectrum.
This means many concerned parents end up seeing several medical professionals before receiving a diagnosis for their child. This delay in diagnosis hinders a child’s ability to get the help they need to keep developing.
While children can be diagnosed as early as 18 months, the average age is 4 to 6 years old.
And early detection has been deemed crucial.
Dr. Helen L. Egger, chair of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone and lead author of the Autism & Beyond study, told Healthline: “By missing children and not identifying them, and not getting them services, we are really [doing them a] disservice and impacting a child’s development across the lifespan.”