The first ever biological test for autism is about to hit the market, and we got the inside scoop!
With autism prevalence rising in recent years, parents are learning more about the signs for developmental delay and what to do if you’re noticing them in your child. According to the CDC, possible “red flags” could be your child not making eye contact, having delayed speech and language, or having trouble understanding feelings. Just keep in mind, autism truly is a spectrum and every child is different, so presenting some, or none, of these signs does not equal a diagnosis. That’s why it’s important to start a conversation with your pediatrician and have them developmentally screened at their 18, and 24 month well check appointments.
What is a developmental screening?
A developmental screening is designed to tell if your child is learning basic skills when they typically should be. These behavioral exams are short, and usually involve questions for the parents while analyzing how the child behaves and moves. These screening tests help the child’s pediatrician to determine if they need to be referred to a specialist for an autism diagnosis. These screenings are very sensitive, meaning they are designed to catch as many cases of autism spectrum disorder as possible. Unfortunately, this also means that many children without autism, or with other developmental delays, will be flagged and referred for an autism diagnosis. As a result, waiting lists to see specialists are filled with kids who do not have autism. This causes long wait times to see the specialists for diagnosis, and delays in receiving valuable behavioral intervention services for the children who desperately need them.
Fortunately, there is a new product coming to the market soon that may help this situation. Clarifi, a saliva test developed by Admera Health and Quadrant Biosciences, represents the first saliva test for aiding the autism diagnosis process. The test involves a simple saliva swab, so that means no blood, no tears, just one long “ahhh” and then waiting for your results. Oh, and that only takes 3 to 6 weeks, so no long wait times.
Research has shown that a child can be diagnosed with autism as young as 18 months old, yet the average age of diagnosis is still four years old.
The developers of Clarifi hope that their test will help speed up the diagnosis process, and get kids diagnosed within the second year of life. By getting a biological diagnosis sooner, children can gain access to beneficial services that help change their lives in the long run.
If you’re curious about how it works, you can check out their website for an in depth explanation. But in short, Clarifi is an epigenetic test, which means it looks at RNA, not DNA, like a genetic test would. Epigenetics is the study of how our genes express themselves, and takes into account both internal biological processes, as well as environmental influences (like what you eat, or chemicals in the air).
Their research is funded by huge scientific institutions like the National Institutes of Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics, too.
Clarifi is meant to be used only if there’s already a suspicion of autism (through a screening test, for example). It has to be ordered and administered by a health care provider, so ask your pediatrician about offering the test.