New Test Enhances Accuracy of Autism Screen. (Evaluation at 24 Months Most Accurate)

Article excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO - A new screening test developed for autism reliably indicates which children need further follow-up and evaluation, Dr. Renee C. Wachtel said at a meeting on clinical pediatrics. sponsored by the University of California, San Francisco.

The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT), adapted from a test developed in the United Kingdom, is easily administered in pediatric practices and is available in Spanish as well as English, said Dr. Wachtel, director of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Children's Hospital, Oakland, Calif.

The checklist consists of 25 items. Children who fail three of the items, or two of the most discriminating items, should be referred for further assessment.

The questions concern behaviors such as playing and interacting with other children, pointing, imitating parents, and making eye contact.

The developers of the M-CHAT, Dr. Diana Robins, Dr. Deborah Fein, and Dr. Marianne Barton of the University of Connecticut, Farmington, administered it to 1,293 children, including 171 already in early intervention programs.

Of the 58 (3 4%) children flagged by the test, 39 had autism or another pervasive developmental disorder, and the remainder had some type of developmental disorder, such as mental retardation.

None of the children with a positive M-CHAT were found, to be developing normally.

Prompt intervention can make a difference for these patients, so early screening and referral are important, Dr. Wachtel said.

Optimally, the M-CHAT should be administered at 18 months of age, with a follow-up test at 24 months.

However, the data are more reliable at 24 months than at 18 months, Dr. …