A Guide on Early Autism Screening

In the United States, autism affects one of every 44 children and about 2.2% of adults. Here's a guide to an early Autism screening.

A Guide on Early Autism Screening

In the United States, autism affects one of every 44 children and about 2.2% of adults. Early childhood autism diagnosis and interventions can improve well-being and quality of life. An Autism diagnosis involves a multidisciplinary approach with sensitive screening tools at its core.

Early Collaborative Screening

While universal screening is not routinely performed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that early autism diagnoses occur about four times more often than 20 years ago. Initial screens generally occur at a child’s wellness visit with their doctor. Further screening can happen in a child’s school setting.

Clinicians often utilize milestone checklists to see if they need to apply further autism assessments. Afterwards a corroboration of checklist results, caregivers’ conversations regarding a child’s behavior, a child’s family history of autism, and the clinician’s observational findings is made.

Characteristics of Effective Screening Tools

When choosing the best screening tool for a child who may have autism, consider the following:

  • Sensitivity: Accurately identify autism in most situations.
  • Specificity: Be able to rule out autism correctly. 
  • Reliability: Results should be replicable when different clinicians assess the patient.
  • Validity: Accurately rate or scale the symptoms of autism. 

Other important factors to consider are the data needed to execute the screening tool and whether the tool is available in the necessary language and reading level to carry out the assessment.

Types of Diagnostic Tools

Because of its complex nature, there are a broad array of tools used by clinicians and educators to identify autism.

Rating Scales 

In general, rating scales measure the severity of the disorder or the severity of the symptoms of autism. Examples of these types of screening tools include:

  • Childhood Autism Rating Scale™ (CARS™2)
  • Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS™-2) 
  • Autism Spectrum Rating Scales (ASRS)
  • Behavior Assessment System for Children, Third Edition (BASC-3)
  • Gilliam Autism Rating Scale, Third Edition (GARS-3)
  • Sensory Processing Measure, Second Edition (SPM-2)


Conversations with clinicians, educators, and caregivers provide valuable insight for accurate autism diagnosis.. Examples of guided interviews include:

  • Autism Diagnosis Interview – Revised (ADI-R)
  • Monteiro Interview Guidelines for Diagnosing the Autism Spectrum, Second Edition (MIGDAS-2)
  • Psychoeducational Profile, Third Edition (PEP-3)

Observational Tools

Observational assessment tools are essential for preventing implicit bias when attempting to identify autism. An example includes Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Second Edition (ADOS-2). When you observe a child suspected of having autism in different settings, you can either rule out or rule in autism more easily. Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) is known leading cause of inherited intellectual disability and the most common single-gene cause of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Only genetic testing can reveal if you are a Fragile X carrier.

Valuation of Your Tools 

It is crucial to understand the screening tools used to diagnose autism. If you are unaware of the shortcomings or barriers of an assessment, you may not yield accurate results. Learn more about how to help kids in school using assessment tools at WPS. They guide customers to the available tools for autism assessments and help you thoroughly understand their use.

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