HealthDay News — A short parent questionnaire may be able to identify gastrointestinal disorders in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a study published online Oct. 22 in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Kara G. Margolis, M.D., from the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues developed a brief parent-report screen that relies minimally on a child’s ability to report or localize pain. The goal of the screen is to identify children with ASD at risk for one of three common gastrointestinal disorders (functional constipation, functional diarrhea, and gastroesophageal reflux disease). The authors developed the tool by surveying 131 parents of children with ASD using 35 questions assessing observable signs of gastrointestinal disorders. Gastroenterologists also evaluated the children.

The researchers found that this 17-item screen identified children with one or more of the three common gastrointestinal disorders with a sensitivity of 84 percent, a specificity of 43 percent, and a positive predictive value of 67 percent.

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“If found to be valid in an independent sample of children with ASD, the screen will be useful in both clinical practice and research,” the authors write.

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