Screening for autism

SOURCE: Pediatrics, 2004;114:3166-3176
(Ivanhoe Newswire) — Chinese investigators have come up with a new and better way to identify young children with autism.

Their screening process combines the best elements from previous surveys designed by researchers in Britain and the United States. Dubbed the CHAT-23 (Checklist for Autism in Toddlers), the two-part screening begins with a written survey parents can take at home when their children are between 18 and 24 months old and then turn in to health officials.

Children who fail two of seven key questions or any six out of the entire 23 questions on the survey are then referred for further testing by a trained observer. Children who fail the direct observation go on for further evaluation and early intervention, if they are found to be autistic.

The seven key questions for parents include:

Does your child imitate you?
Does your child ever pretend?
Does your child ever use his/her index finger to point?
Does your child look at your face to check your reaction when faced with something unfamiliar?
Does your child ever bring objects over to you to show you something?
If you point at a toy across the room, does your child look at it?
Does your child take an interest in other children?
The investigators tested the two-step screening process among 212 children with and without autism and found the method to be effective in identifying the autistic children.

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