If you are a parent concerned that your child has Autism Spectrum Disorder, you can start by getting an appointment with your pediatrician and have him or her score the M-CHAT checklist for your child and later visit a neuropsychologist for confirmation of results. It is important to consider that parents and caregivers are also able to answer the questionnaire, but having an objective person answer the questions is recommended for validity of results.
If your child is older and between the ages of 7 to 16 years, you can use the ASSQ questionnaire; whereas the AQ questionnaire can be used for children starting at age 4, but is also a good screening tool for young adults and adults. A parent, caregiver or pediatrician/ general practitioner can fill out either the ASSQ and AQ questionnaires. However, if an adult is completing the AQ questionnaire, this becomes a good self-report measure for “full” diagnosis later on. Either way, a visit to a neuropsychologist or psychiatrist for confirmation of results is recommended once these screening tools have been completed, especially if scored as positive for Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Just because a child may pass the M-CHAT, ASSQor AQ questionnaire, it is important to consider that this does not guarantee that they might not get a social/ communication disorder or an Autism diagnosis later on. These screening tools are valid and have been used in clinical as well as research practices. However, they are not considered a “full” screening as done by a neuropsychologist. Therefore, if highly concerned, an appointment with a specialist is recommended.
DIAGNOSIS IS THE STARTING POINT… THE REST IS SUPPORT!
Early intervention for children on the Autism Spectrum has shown great progress and provides them with proper academic support by getting an Individual Education Plan (IEP).Depending on the severity and the child’s areas of need, assistance in occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, specialized language tutoring, play groups, Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy and Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) therapy can be recommended. Before any proper support can be provided, diagnosis is the starting point! Therefore, the earlier the child gets diagnosed; the early the family can seek support and the quicker the child can acquire a successful future.
The modified checklist for Autism Screening for Toddlers-Revised (M-CHAT-R) is a questionnaire that has been scientifically validated as a screening tool for Autism Spectrum Disorder for children between the ages of 16 to30 months. It assesses the risk the child has to be diagnosed on the SPECTRUM or children who have social/ communication disorders. It was developed by neuropsychologist Diana Robins and Deborah Fein as well as clinical psychologist Marianne Barton. The M-CHAT is a recommended tool for developmental pediatricians to use when screening for Autism Spectrum Disorder in young children.
The Autism Spectrum Screening Questionnaire (ASSQ)
The ASSQ is another known questionnaire used to screen for autism spectrum disorder in children between the ages of 7 to 16 years old. Even though this questionnaire is not a diagnostic, it has been used in clinical as well as research practices and has been considered to be a reliable source. The results are based on the sample of Asperger children independently diagnosed in Ebler, Gillberg and Wing (1999) study. The higher the score, the more Autism characteristics are reported. A minimum percentile of 50 must be achieved for comparison to be made, since the individual has on average the same score as the validation sample in Ehlers, Gillberg and Wing (1999) study. To have a true positive, a score of 13 is necessary as it illuminates a false positive rate of 22% and increases chances of a true positive rate of 90% (Ehlers, Gillberg& Wing, 1999).
Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ)
(Baron-Cohen, Wheelwright, Skinner, Martin &Clubley, 2001)
The ASSQ is another known questionnaire used to screen for Autism Spectrum Disorder in children between the ages of 4 years to adulthood. It was originally developed as a screening tool for children, adolescents, and adults. It contains a total of 50 questions, which assess social interaction, communication, attention to detail, attention switching and imagination. A minimum score of 76 is necessary to indicate a positive screen for Autism Spectrum Disorder.
OTHER ASDScreening Tools
Many different screening tools are available online. Below is a link to all-reliable screening questionnaires that have been used in both clinical and research practices. If you want to explore additional avenues for Autism screening, you can look at the following options.
In addition, governmental assistance/support is allocated to families who have their child diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum and who are diagnosed with a “severe” case (http://www.rrq.gouv.qc.ca/en/programmes/soutien_enfants/Pages/soutien_enfants.aspx) . For government assistance, a “full” diagnosis is required!