Autism Screening: What You Need To Know

The prevalence of autism is growing, making screening tools to determine where a child falls on the autistic spectrum more important than ever. It is now recommended that all children receive autism screening. There are varying levels of screening, including initial screening and in-depth testing. Here is what you need to know about the available tests and what they mean.The M-CHAT, or Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, is the first line of autism screening. It is recommended for all toddlers by the American Academy of Pediatrics and is a very basic checklist of developmental milestones designed for toddlers between the ages of sixteen and thirty months. The M-CHAT uses the range of normal behavioral and developmental milestones at each age and screens for any possible delays or the existence of autistic traits.

The test is a standard part of a well-child checkup, and can unobtrusively be incorporated into the exam with a simple checklist. Your pediatrician will know how to interpret the results and whether further testing is indicated. Falling behind on one or two measures is not a cause for alarm, as all children will reach different milestones at different times and certain verbal and communication-related milestones may be given more weight in determining autistic traits.

If further testing is required to determine your child’s need for services or not, the VB-MAPP is a much more in-depth look at the verbal abilities of your child. The Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program screens for over 170 components of speech and language development, including measures such as social and independent play, listening skills, verbal matching, and many more. This comprehensive testing not only accurately assesses where your child’s strengths and weaknesses lie, it provides distinct guidelines for treatments and therapies to help your child’s progress.

Understanding available testing for autistic traits and what it means for your child and family is an invaluable tool in helping your child to overcome their challenges and be the best they can be.