Most experts believe that autism is a result of gene mutations, though there still isn't one concrete way to test for autism. Usually, doctors spend time looking for signs of autism during well-child visits, though short check-ups can often lead to a missed diagnosis.
Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham even believe that scanning three areas of the brain can bring doctors one step closer to a diagnosis.
But another method from researchers at UC San Diego may actually be more efficient: using a blood test to look for biomarkers that are tied to autism.
A new study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry focused on 220 toddlers, ages 1 to 4 years old, that were split into two groups (147 in the first group; 73 in the second). Toddler boys were the sole focus of the study because they're four times more likely to have autism.
Scientists then analyzed blood samples from each group and determined that certain genes were the same, and more prevalent, in children with autism. In the first group, the blood test had an 83 percent accuracy, and in the second group, a 75 percent accuracy.
As with most research around autism, this particular one is still ongoing, but the results are promising as a possible way to diagnose and treat autism earlier.
Sherry Huang is a Features Editor for Parents.com. She loves collecting children's picture books and has an undeniable love for cookies of all kinds. Her spirit animal would be Beyoncé Pad Thai. Follow her on Twitter @sherendipitea.
Photos of blood test tubes via Shutterstock