Early screening and assessment for autism or other developmental delays is considered best practices and is strongly recommended. In many situations an autism (ASD) diagnosis may be necessary to receive treatment or services. A child’s primary care physician is often the first contact for parents and primary caregivers since pediatricians typically have consistent contact with families throughout the child’s earliest developmental years. If they do not screen for developmental delays or ASD themselves, they typically provide families referrals to a specialist such as a clinical psychologist or a neurologist.
Because early screening is The Gold Standard, it is recommended that families screen for autism as early as 9 months. It is strongly recommended that toddlers receive screening by 18 months, and at the age of 2 years old.
There are many different types of screening tools that are commonly used to assess for possible developmental delays or to screen for autism.
Some examples include:
Developmental Assessment of Young Children, Second Edition (DAYC-2)
This is a general developmental screening tool commonly used in children ages 0-5 years old, which assesses possible delays in five domains including: adaptive behavior, physical development, communication, cognition, and social/emotional development.
Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, Fourth Edition (Bayley-4)
This is an assessment tool used in children ages 16 days to 42 months of age and assesses a child’s development in cognition, social/emotional, adaptive, motor, and language development.
Ages and Stages Questionnaire, Third Edition (ASQ-3)
This is a general developmental screening tool commonly used for assessing developmental milestones and progress in children ages 1 month – 5 years old.
Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, Third Edition (Vineland-3)
This is a diagnostic instrument used with semi-structured interview format for assessing intellectual and developmental disabilities in individuals, ages 0 – 90 years old.
Diagnostic tools are used for receiving a formal diagnosis of autism. There is no singular diagnostic tool used as the basis for diagnostics, although the following list include the most commonly used tools. Please check with your health insurance provider on costs and referrals for diagnosis.
Please note, that an autism diagnosis is a family’s personal choice, and something that should be discussed thoroughly and openly among family members, their pediatrician, the child’s school personnel, and any other specialists they see fit such as a clinical psychologist, developmental-behavioral pediatrician, or neurologist.
Childhood Autism Rating Scale, Second Edition (CARS-2)
This is designed to be administered by a trained professional to assess for items indicative of ASD, which may include parent/caregiver concerns and direct observation of the child.
Gilliam Autism Rating Scale, Third Edition (GARS-3)
This is perhaps the most widely accepted and used diagnostic tool of ASD. The GARS-3 assists parents/caregivers, teachers, and specialized clinicians in identifying autism in an individual as well as assessing and estimating its severity based on subscales which include: social/emotional, cognition, maladaptive speech, and behavior.
Gilliam, J. E. (2014). Gilliam autism rating scale – third edition (GARS-3). Austin: Pro-Ed.
Schopler, E., Van Bourgondien, M., Wellman, G., & Love, S. (2010). Childhood autism rating scale-second
edition (CARS2): Manual. Los Angeles: Western Psychological Services.