A screening is a brief test used to identity if an individual is at-risk of a particular disease or disability as early as possible. Early identification of a disease or disability supports individuals in accessing the care they need before the disease or disability worsens. Individuals who are determined to be at-risk (i.e., positive screening results) for a particular disease or disbility based on the results of a screening would undergo a comprehensive assessment to determine if they meet the diagnostic criteria for the screened disease or disability.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all children receive autism-specific screening at 18 and 24 months of age. The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT; Robins, Fein, & Barton, 2009) is a screening tool that uses parent-report to assess risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in children 16 to 30 months of age. Children identified as at-risk for ASD based on the M-CHAT should receive a comprehensive evaluation to determine if the child meets the diagnostic criteria for ASD or other developmental disabilities. Comprehensive evaluations may be conducted by Developmental Pediatricians, Pediatric/Child Neurologists, and Pediatric/Child Psychologists or Psychiatrists.
*The M-CHAT is intended to be administered by a trained health care professional. Caregivers who complete the M-CHAT independently should bring a copy of the results to their child’s next well-child check-up to discuss with their pediatrician.
While every child is different and develops at different rates, there are specific skills, called developmental milestones, that children should perform within specific age ranges. Developmental milestones include fiine motor, gross motor, speech and language, social and emotional, and cognitive skills. While your pediatrician should be monitoring how your child is developing, including achievement of age-appropriate milestones, it is important for caregivers to track how their child is progressing. Caregivers that familiarize themselves with the developmental milestones are more likely to identify developmental delays in their child’s development, which could support the child in being diagnosed sooner and securing necessary treatments or interventions sooner. Getting support for your child early on is the best option. Early treatment and intervention has resulted in the most favorable outcomes in children identified as having a developmental delay. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website outlines developmental milestones organized by age (birth-5 years) including tips on when to contact a health professional regarding developmental concerns.