Early identification of children with delayed non-verbal communication; autism - project description
By assessing children's use of gaze and gestures in interaction with others it might be possible to identify who at 12 to 24 months are likely to develop autism or related disorders (all with an autism spectrum disorder -ASD). It is usual to postpone a thorough assessment of children with communicative concern to well after children are expected to talk (between 30-36 months) before investigating possible severe communication disorder. By assessing children's non-verbal communication, we will examine if it is possible to identify children at high risk of pervasive language /communication problems long before one can expect the first words.
48 children under 2 ½ years with identified difficulties in communication and social skills were followed until they were 3 years old. The children and families were recruited through well baby clinics using a 10-question check-list about children's use of gaze and gestures in play with others (Non-Verbal Communication Checklist - NVCC). In addition to the clinical sample, the 10 item check-list were used in a subsample of children who came to regular health checkpoints at well-baby clinics throughout the first years in life. The results from this assessment provided developmental norms for how parents typically describe their children's non-verbal communication development (N=1,247). Approximately 10 months later, these parents received further questions about the child's development.
71% of the children in the clinical sample received a diagnosis within the autism spectrum. The other children had other types of developmental difficulties. From the well-baby clinic survey it shows that at 15 months of age, there are very few children who did not master all of the skills listed on the NVCC checklist. Children who score moderately high on the NVCC checklist when they are 15 months should be followed more closely with regard to development surveillance and possible early intervention.