Child and family characteristics influence screening results for children with autism

We all know that not all screening and evaluation instruments “work” the same for all children (well, maybe not… but we’re at least figuring that out, slowly but surely…). Moody et al. provide us with yet another example, in the screening of young children with autism (ASD).

They examined the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) and Social Responsiveness Scales (SRS) questionnaires across thousands of children, and found that lower maternal education and household income predicted a greater likelihood of the test incorrectly identifying the child as one who may have autism, in both screeners. Also, in children with developmental and behavioral challenges, the researchers found that the screeners picked up on these things, but couldn’t reliably separate them from characteristics of ASD, thus also over-identifying these children. The researchers emphasize that their results do not mean that the SRS and SCQ shouldn’t be used; rather, at this time, clinicians must simply must be aware of which child characteristics are most likely to make certain screeners under-perform. They suggest a “… need to refine existing measures or develop new instruments to ensure they perform well across groups.”

 

Moody, E.J., Reyes, N., Ledbetter, C., & Wiggins, L. (2017). Screening for Autism with the SRS and SCQ: Variations across Demographic, Developmental and Behavioral Factors in Preschool Children. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s10803-017-3255-5.