Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability in early childhood. Early identification and intervention in children with ASD are essential for children and their families. This study aimed to identify the earliest signs of ASD. Using a large cohort including data from 104,062 fetal records in the Japan Environment and Children's Study, we examined the Ages and Stages Questionnaires® (ASQ-3TM) scores of children with and without ASD. The ASQ-3 comprises five domains: communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem solving, and personal-social. The ASQ-3 scores were obtained at ages 6 months, 1 year, and 3 years. There were 64,501 children with available ASQ-3 data. The number of children diagnosed with ASD was 188 (0.29%) at 3 years of age. The highest relative risk (RR) for any domain below the monitoring score at 6 months was in the communication (RR 1.90, 95% CI 1.29-2.78, p = 0.0041), followed by fine motor (RR 1.50, 95% CI 1.28-1.76, p < 0.0001) domain. A low ASQ-3 score in the communication domain at 6 months was related to an ASD diagnosis at 3 years of age. The ASQ-3 score at 6 months can contribute to the early identification of and intervention for ASD.
Keywords: ASQ-3; autism spectrum disorder; early signs.