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Formal Screening Tools

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Updated: Sep 25th 2018

There are many different developmental screening tools. This list is not exhaustive, and other tests may be available.

Selected examples of screening tools for general development and ASD:

Ages and Stages Questionnaires (ASQ) - This is a general developmental screening tool. Parent-completed questionnaire; series of 19 age-specific questionnaires screening communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem-solving, and personal adaptive skills; results in a pass/fail score for domains.

Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales (CSBS) - Standardized tool for screening of communication and symbolic abilities up to the 24-month level; the Infant Toddler Checklist is a 1-page, parent-completed screening tool.

Parents' Evaluation of Developmental Status (PEDS) - This is a general developmental screening tool. Parent-interview form; screens for developmental and behavioral problems needing further evaluation; single response form used for all ages; may be useful as a surveillance tool.

Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (MCHAT) - Parent-completed questionnaire designed to identify children at risk for autism in the general population.

Screening Tool for Autism in Toddlers and Young Children (STAT) - This is an interactive screening tool designed for children when developmental concerns are suspected. It consists of 12 activities assessing play, communication, and imitation skills and takes 20 minutes to administer.

Diagnostic Tools

There are many tools to assess ASD in young children, but no single tool should be used as the basis for diagnosis. Diagnostic tools usually rely on two main sources of information - parents' or caregivers' descriptions of their child's development and a professional's observation of the child's behavior.

In some cases, the primary care provider might choose to refer the child and family to a specialist for further assessment and diagnosis. Such specialists include neurodevelopmental pediatricians, developmental-behavioral pediatricians, child neurologists, geneticists, and early intervention programs that provide assessment services.

Selected examples of diagnostic tools:

Autism Diagnosis Interview - Revised (ADI-R) - A clinical diagnostic instrument for assessing autism in children and adults. The instrument focuses on behavior in three main areas: reciprocal social interaction; communication and language; and restricted and repetitive, stereotyped interests and behaviors. The ADI-R is appropriate for children and adults with mental ages about 18 months and above.

Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule - Generic (ADOS-G) - A semi-structured, standardized assessment of social interaction, communication, play, and imaginative use of materials for individuals suspected of having ASD. The observational schedule consists of four 30-minute modules, each designed to be administered to different individuals according to their level of expressive language.

Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) - Brief assessment suitable for use with any child over 2 years of age. CARS includes items drawn from five prominent systems for diagnosing autism; each item covers a particular characteristic, ability, or behavior.

Gilliam Autism Rating Scale - Second Edition (GARS-2) - Assists teachers, parents, and clinicians in identifying and diagnosing autism in individuals ages 3 through 22. It also helps estimate the severity of the child's disorder.

Sourced from the Centers for Disease Control, September 2018


Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Diagnosing my 4 yr old- autism?? - Rachel - Jul 23rd 2008
My fiancee and I feel that there is something wrong with my 4 yr old.  This has been on going for about a yr.  She strays away from other kids and sits alone, talks to herself ALOT, is not affectionate most of the time, will put her hands up like a cat and hiss at you- very serious face OR opens her mouth wide open and eyes bulged- like from a horror movie.  She used to lunge at you and pretend to claw or scratch... we would put her in time out when she would act like this.  Within the past month- she has acted on this- and actually scratched hard. She doesnt do this often- but it is scary when she does. She 95% of the time is a super sweet fun loving little girl... but out of the blue at times- she will go through these 'stages'.  We have 4 children- 2 1/2, 4, 5 1/2, and 9... all of them get the same amt of attention- so this is NOT an attention getter.  The other kids will laugh when she acts this way- and she keeps a straight face... almost like she is possessed.  Then she will stop and go sit by herself- if you try to talk to her or hold her during this time- she will start up again and flale her legs and arms while staring blank eyed at you with mouth wide open.  If anyone can help me self diagnose this- so I can bring it up to a psychatrist or doctor or someone- PLEASE email me info.  I dont want this behavior to continue now that she will be going to school.  She has not shown this outside of the home but two times- while at my parents visiting.  SOMEONE help me here.  Thanks so much, Rachel

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