• Screening for Autism

    During regular check-ups, your doctor will examine your child to see if he or she has any developmental delays. These "well-child" check-ups are typically scheduled for:
    • 9 months
    • 18 months
    • 24 or 30 months
    To look for developmental delays, your doctor will focus on your child’s social skills, language skills, and behavior. Your doctor may talk to and play with your child. You will be asked questions about your child’s development.
    This is a good time for you to talk openly to your doctor. You may have concerns about how your child is growing and behaving. Tell your doctor if you think your child is not developing normally, or has regressed. It is very important to share these concerns with your doctor.
    Examples of tests that are used to screen for developmental delays include:
    • Ages and Stages Questionnaire
    • Parents Evaluation of Developmental Status
    Your doctor may also give a screening test to check specifically for autism. These screening tools focus on the criteria for diagnosing autism. The criteria are based on the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.
    One test that is used is called the Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (CHAT). It is for children as young as 18 months. This is when autism is typically diagnosed. Some samples of the types of questions in CHAT include:
    • Does your child take interest in other children?
    • Does your child ever bring objects over to you to show you something?
    • Does your child sometimes stare at nothing or wander with no purpose?
    The screening may show that your child has signs of autism. If so, the next step would be to work with a professional who specializes in the condition. This may be a child psychologist. The specialist will do further testing.
    It is important to keep in mind that if your child is in the high-risk category, your doctor will screen him or her sooner for developmental delays and autism. Your child is considered high-risk if he or she:
    • Had a low birth weight
    • Was premature
    • Has a sibling with a developmental delay or autism


    Autism spectrum disorders (pervasive developmental disorders). National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-pervasive-developmental-disorders/index.shtml. Updated April 2008. Accessed June 23, 2008.

    Behrman RE, et al. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders; 2007.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs): screening and diagnosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/screening.html. Accessed September 15, 2010.

    DB Peds.org. Modified checklist for autism in toddlers (M-CHAT) form. DB Peds.org website. Available at: http://www2.aap.org/sections/dbpeds/index.asp?TextID=466. Accessed September 15, 2010.

    DynaMed Editorial Team. Autism spectrum disorders. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated September 13, 2010. Accessed September 15, 2010.

    First Signs. Recommended screening tools. First Signs website. Available at: http://www.firstsigns.org/screening/tools/rec.htm. Accessed September 15, 2010.

    Goetz CG. Goetz’s Textbook of Clinical Neurology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2007.

    Mayo Clinic. Autism: tests and diagnosis. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/autism/DS00348/DSECTION=tests-and-diagnosis. Updated May 27, 2010. Accessed September 15, 2010.

    National Center on Birth Defects and Environmental Disabilities. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/index.html. Accessed June 23, 2008.

    Stern TA, et al. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2008.

    Revision Information

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