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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Guest Blog: Screening Toddlers for Autism is Worthwhile

The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

By Deborah Fein and Diana Robins
April 29, 2014

Deborah Fein (left); Diana Robins
A Norwegian study published in February reported that the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) identifies only one-third of 18-month-old children who will be diagnosed with autism later in childhood. Based on this, the researchers suggest that using only the M-CHAT to screen such young children for autism is ineffective.

As creators of the M-CHAT and its
revised version, we and our colleague, Marianne Barton, believe it retains utility for this age group. We would like to put the study’s conclusions into a more general framework for the detection of autism and related disorders.

Screening questionnaires such as the M-CHAT, which parents complete at the 18-month routine pediatric visit (or possibly even earlier), will detect some proportion of children who have social communication delays — including delays in language, pointing, responding to their names and smiling — and who may go on to receive an autism diagnosis.

What is the alternative to universal autism screening?

Several studies have now shown that physician observation alone, although important, fails to identify many children at risk. Also, although parents’ observations are crucial in identifying some children, relying upon parents to voice concerns that might prompt further evaluation also misses many children.

It seems to us that ideal practice would be to use age-appropriate autism and general developmental screens at multiple ages, and to better integrate this kind of screening with physician and parent concerns. This will help to ensure that the maximum number of children can be given effective intervention as early in life as possible...

Read the entire article HERE.

Deborah Fein is professor of psychology at the University of Connecticut, and Diana Robins is associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Georgia State University.

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