Early identifications and diagnosis of autism

External Resources

Government-funded diagnosis services (for under 18s)

Autism in the early years

Support groups

Identifying the early behavioural signs of autism in infancy and toddlerhood is critical to understanding how autism develops and manifests 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 show that early signs of autism can be reliably detected in infants and toddlers later diagnosed with an autism. On the basis of these findings we undertook the Social Attention and Communication Study (SACS) which showed that autism 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. 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
  3. 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)
  4. Developmental surveillance for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in early childhood education settings.
    Beth Mozolic-Staunton, Michelle Donelly, Josephine Barbaro, & Jacqui Yoxall (Southern Cross University)
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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 (University of Tasmania), Nancy Sadka & the SACS team
    Funding: Autism CRC
  8. 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
  9. Brief Autism Detection in Early Childhood (BADEC).
    Researchers: Darren Hedley,
    Rose Nevill (University of Virginia), Robyn Young (Flinders University), Micah Mazurek (University of Virginia), Fei Nah (Singapore National University)
  10. A Comparison of Early Development and Symptoms of Autistic Children Born Preterm and Full-term.
    Thuy Vi Luu, Rachel Jellett, Josephine Barbaro
  11. State-wide implementation of the Social Attention and Communication Surveillance-Revised (SACS-R) in Tasmania.
    Researchers: Josephine Barbaro, Nancy Sadka, Cheryl Dissanayake,
    Ali Morse, Lyndsay Quarmby, & Tony Barnett (University of Tasmania)