Early identifications and diagnosis of autism

Identification and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders

Research projects

Woman and a baby playing with a pile of blocks.Identifying the early behavioural signs of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) in infancy and toddlerhood are critical to understand how ASDs develop and manifest in the first years of life. This knowledge also assists in identifying and diagnosing children earlier, enabling them to receive intervention in their early and most important years.

Results from many studies both at OTARC and by other researchers clearly shows that early signs of ASD can be reliably detected in infants and toddlers later diagnosed with an ASD. On the basis of these findings we undertook the Social Attention and Communication Study (SACS) which showed that ASDs could be identified during children's second year of life through routine developmental surveillance within the Victorian Maternal and Child Health Service. The SACS is now being evaluated throughout Australia as well as in other cultures, with trials underway in Poland, Korea, Japan and China. We are also following up the children who participated in the SACS to study their cognitive, communication and social development as they grow older.

Current studies

  1. Social Attention and Communication Study-Revised (SACS-R).
    Researchers: Josephine Barbaro,
    Lael Ridgway (School of Nursing and Midwifery, La Trobe University), Cheryl Dissanayake
    Funding: Menzies Foundation; Autism CRC
  2. Barriers and enablers to the early identification of Autism in Australia.
    Researchers: Cathy Bent, Cheryl Dissanayake, Josephine Barbaro

    Funding: School of Psychology and Public Health, La Trobe University
  3. Reducing the age of diagnosis of Autism in Nepal: SACS-N
    Researchers:Rena Shrestra, Cheryl Dissanayake, Josephine Barbaro

    Funding: School of Psychology and Public Health, La Trobe University
  4. Clinician confidence during screening for Autism Spectrum Disorder in toddlers.
    Researchers: Darren Hedley,
    Neil Brewer (Flinders University), Rose Nevill (Ohio State University & Nisonger Center, Columbus Ohio) & Elizabeth Kryszak, Jonathan Wilkins, Eric Butter, James A Mulick (all Nationwide Children's Hospital and Ohio State University, USA)
  5. Approach and withdrawal in toddlers with ASD and developmental delays: Unique behavioural profiles?
    Researchers: Darren Hedley, Mirko Uljarevic,
    Prof James A Mulick (Ohio State University) & Rose Nevill (Ohio State University & Nisonger Center, USA)
  6. Developmental surveillance for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in early childhood education settings.
    Beth Mozolic-Staunton, Michelle Donelly, Josephine Barbaro, & Jacqui Yoxall (Southern Cross University)
  7. Social attention and communication surveillance in Warsaw, Poland.
    Researchers: Joanna Kwarsiborska-Dudek (Academy of Special Education), Przemyslaw Tomalski (Faculty of Psychology, University of Warsaw), Cheryl Dissanayake & Josephine Barbaro
  8. Early identification of Autism in Japan.
    Emiko Kesuka (Gunma Prefectural Women's University), Hiroshi Miyauti (Takasaki University of Health and Welfare), Midori Okuno (Gunma Paz College), Cheryl Dissanayake, Robyn Young (Flinders University), Alison Lane (University of Newcastle), Darren Hedley & Josephine Barbaro
  9. Comparing longitudinal outcomes of children with Autism diagnosed in toddlerhood and their families via two different referral systems.
    Felicity Peel, Deniz Obligin, Cheryl Dissanayake
    Funding: APEX Trust for Autism and School of Psychology and Public Health, La Trobe University
  10. Prospective identification of ASD in infants and toddlers: Social Attention and Communication Surveillance
    Researchers: Cheryl Dissanayake, Josephine Barbaro,
    Lyndsay Quarmby (University of Tasmania), Tony Barnett (Universzity of Tasmania), Nancy Sadka & the SACS team
    Funding: Autism CRC
  11. Evaluation of ASDetect, a mobile application for autism
    Researchers: Josephine Barbaro, Cheryl Dissanayake, Nancy Sadka
    , Lael Ridgway (School of Nursing and Midwifery, La Trobe University)
    Funding: School of Psychology and Public Health, La Trobe University