According to a study published in The International Journal of Research & Practice, 31% of children categorized as at risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) at 12 months are diagnosed with ASD by age three.

The study, conducted by researchers at University of North Carolina School of Medicine, also found that 85% of children at risk for ASD had some other developmental disability or concern by three years of age.

The teams findings are based on results from the First Year Inventory (FYI). FYI is parent-report questionnaire developed as a screening tool to identify infants who might be at risk for ASD or a related developmental disorder. Parents of 699 children filled out the survey when their child was 12 months of age and again when their child was 3 years old. Children who were identified as at risk for ASD were invited for in-person diagnostic evaluations.

Grace Baranek, Ph.D., an autism researcher with the Program for Early Autism, Research, Leadership and Service (PEARLS) in the Department of Allied Health Sciences at the UNC School of Medicine, explained: "These results indicate that an overwhelming majority of children who screen positive on the FYI indeed experience some delay in development by age three that may warrant early intervention."

Lauren Turner-Brown, Ph.D., also a researcher with PEARLS and the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, said:

"Identification of children at risk for ASD at 12 months could provide a substantial number of children and their families with access to intervention services months or years before they would otherwise receive a traditional diagnosis.

These findings are encouraging and suggest promise in the approach of using parent report of infant behaviors as a tool for identifying 12-month-olds who are at risk for an eventual diagnosis of ASD."

Written by Grace Rattue