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Developmental Surveillance Program for early autism IDing

Early detection of autism is critical as it provides access to early intervention, improving children’s developmental outcomes and quality of life, and decreasing family stress.

Dr. Josephine Barbaro from La Trobe University Australia created a developmental surveillance program for the early identification of autism known as the Social Attention and Communication Study (SACS).

The SACS involves training of child health nurses to monitor children for autism at their routine, community-based health-checks between 12 and 24 months of age.

The SACS has 15 years of research on its implementation to facilitate the early identification of children with autism. It is the most accurate and sensitive method for the early identification of autism in the world, being utilised across Australia, the Asia-Pacific, and Europe.

Autism New Zealand has teamed up with La Trobe University and Victoria University Wellington to provide training on the use of SACS in New Zealand.

The first training day will take place on the 5th of June for Well Child/Tamariki Ora (Plunket) nurses and wider staff in Wellington.

The nurses will also be involved in research to evaluate their perceptions of the SACS and learning during the training.

This will be followed by an information evening open to the public on the development and implementation of the SACS. This is the first training day and public seminar on the early detection of autism using the SACS in New Zealand.

The first aim of the research is to understand Well Child/Tamariki Ora employees’ confidence in applying the training in their work, as well as their understanding and interest in the SACS training.



The second aim is to measure the effectiveness of the training for improving employees’ knowledge of autism in young children and understanding of the process for referring families for a possible diagnosis of autism.

Dr Hannah Waddington, lead researcher from the team at Victoria University Wellington’s School of Education explains “It is an amazing opportunity to collaborate with Dr. Barbaro on this important research.

The SACS is the most accurate and sensitive method of early identification of autism currently available.

The purpose of this research is to examine whether SACS is suitable for a New Zealand context and whether Well Child/Tamariki Ora nurses’ knowledge of the early signs of autism increases following the training.”

Funding permitted, the aim is to roll out SACS training nationally. The first public information evening will take place on Wednesday the 5th of June 6.30-7.30pm at the Maclaurin Lecture Theatre LT102, Victoria University (Kelburn Campus).

For more information please contact larah.vandermeer@autismnz.org or to book your spot visit: https://book.autismnz.org.nz/SACS/ , tickets cost $25.


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