A nationwide autism screening project was launched earlier today by the Education Ministry and the Health Ministry.

The programme, called “Lenti fuq l-izvilupp ta’ uliedna”, was launched nationwide today at the Zebbug primary school.

Parents will be receiving an invite letter and a consent form, asking to conduct the screening.

Screening is to be conducted using an M-CHAT questionnaire. Consisting of 20 'yes' or 'no' questions, the survey will be carried out during an informal meeting between the parent and a member of the screening team.

So far, 1,500 babies have been screened for autism in a pilot project, 200 of whom required a follow-up meeting with professionals. The programme is offered to children as young as 18 months.

Health Minister Chris Fearne and Education Minister Evarist Bartolo were both present at the official launch of the event. The two ministries worked closely together on the project to encourage parents to seek out doctors, Dr Bartolo said.

One of the main benefits of the programme was that it would allow families to address behavioral programmes from an early age, Dr Fearne said.