Autism easier to spot when parents ask these 24 questions (pictures)

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(CBS) Children with autism fare better when they get diagnosed early - at least that's what evidence now suggests. But while kids often start showing signs of autism within 12 to 18 months of birth, experts say most who suffer from the potentially devastating neurodevelopmental disorder don't get diagnosed until they are at least four.

But things may be changing - for the better.

PICTURES - Autism: 24 signs your child is at risk

New research published Thursday in the Journal of Pediatrics shows that a simple checklist that parents can complete in just a few minutes can give doctors a good idea of whether a child is suffering from autism or another developmental disorder.

The checklist is designed to be scored by a medical professional, according to Dr. Karen Pierce, the University of California at San Diego Autism Center of Excellence neuroscientist who conducted the study. But she told CBS News that it can be helpful for parents simply to take a look a the 24 questions that make up the checklist - about children's emotions, communication, eye gazes, gestures, sounds, use of objects, etc.

"If parents consider the questions and are concerned that their child is not developing these skills, they should seek an evaluation," she said.

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