LOS ANGELES - Asperger's Syndrome is often described as a mild form of autism. They often aren't diagnosed until they're adults, which can cause a lifetime of difficulties. Now, there's a quick and easy way to get some answers.
Patty Dion misses her son.
"I believe that if we could have put in place the proper supports for Dave, we would never have gone down the path of depression," she said.
But Dave wasn't diagnosed with Asperger's until he was 34, after decades of therapies and drugs for other disorders. He killed himself shortly after.
"You can just imagine how devastating that was for our family. But the needless suffering and challenges that our son went through because we didn't have a correct diagnosis, " said Dion.
Her experience led her to the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center.
Research director Christopher Smith did a lot of one-on-one research on people with Asperger's. After looking at the data, he came up with a quick way to screen kids. He named it in honor of Patty's son.
"One of the benefits of the DAVE screen questionnaire or the Social Challenges Screening Questionnaire is that it's quick and easy to complete. It's 15 yes or no questions," he said.
Teachers or parents answer the questions. Kids who get six or more "yes" answers are directed to see a specialist.
Smith said, "This project is really about offering opportunity to detect those individuals before they have more serious functional impairments," said Smith.
Some educators say this could make a big impact.
"It's just another step in breaking down misunderstanding about Autism Spectrum Disorder in schools and outside the schools, and that's something I just jumped on," said Tom Doebler, national director of Great Hearts Exceptional Student Services.
In that first year at the school, the screening identified four students who needed more testing. That's the number experts expected to find.
The hope is it will become routine testing in elementary schools. The "Think Asperger's" app can be download for free.
You can also go to this link to see the questionnaire: https://www.autismcenter.org/thinkaspergers.