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ESSENCE-Q – a first clinical validation study of a new screening questionnaire for young children with suspected neurodevelopmental problems in south Japan

Authors Hatakenaka Y, Fernell E, Sakaguchi M, Ninomiya H, Fukunaga I, Gillberg C

Received 14 March 2016

Accepted for publication 31 March 2016

Published 14 July 2016 Volume 2016:12 Pages 1739—1746


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Roger Pinder

Video abstract presented by Yuhei Hatakenaka

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Yuhei Hatakenaka,1,2 Elisabeth Fernell,2 Masahiko Sakaguchi,3 Hitoshi Ninomiya,3 Ichiro Fukunaga,1 Christopher Gillberg2

1Kochi Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre, Kochi Prefectural Medical and Welfare Centre, Kochi, Japan; 2Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden; 3Integrated Centre for Advanced Medical Technologies, Kochi University Medical School, Kochi, Japan

Background: Early identification of autism spectrum disorder, intellectual developmental disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and other neurodevelopmental disorders/problems is crucial, yet diagnosis is often delayed for years under the often misguided “wait-and-see” paradigm. The early symptomatic syndromes eliciting neurodevelopmental clinical examinations-questionnaire (ESSENCE-Q) is a brief (12-item) screening questionnaire developed specifically for the purpose of speeding up the identification process of a wide variety of neurodevelopmental problems. The aims were to 1) estimate the reliability of the ESSENCE-Q, 2) evaluate the clinical cutoff levels suggested by the author of the ESSENCE-Q, and 3) propose optimal cutoff levels based on receiver operating characteristic analysis.
Methods: The ESSENCE-Q was used for 1 year by a psychiatrist in Kochi, Japan, assessing children under the age of 6 years referred for developmental problems. The children were also clinically assessed with regard to whether or not they met criteria for a developmental disorder (diagnosis positive and diagnosis negative groups). We contrasted the results of the ESSENCE-Q and those of clinical diagnostic assessments in 130 cases.
Results: Cronbach’s alpha was 0.82, sensitivity was 0.94 (95% confidence interval [CI]: [0.88, 0.98]), and specificity 0.53 (95% CI: [0.28, 0.77]), which are reasonable psychometrics for a first-step screening tool. Based on receiver operating characteristic analysis, we recommended an optimal cutoff level of yes ≥2 or maybe/a little ≥3 on the ESSENCE-Q (0.87 (95% CI: [0.79, 0.92]) sensitivity and 0.77 (95% CI: [0.50, 0.93]) specificity).
Conclusion and implication: The ESSENCE-Q can be a good instrument for use as a screening tool for aiding in the process of early identification of neurodevelopmental disorders in clinical settings. To establish the broader validity and reliability of the ESSENCE-Q, case–control studies and general population studies of children in different age groups are needed.

Keywords: ESSENCE, ESSENCE-Q, cutoff levels, receiver operating characteristic analysis
A Letter to the Editor has been received and published for this article. 

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