What Tests Should Be Used In Screening Younger Siblings For Signs Of Autism?

Question: What tests should be used in screening younger siblings for signs of autism?

Answer: There are a number of screening tools that are specific to identifying early signs of autism and that have been recommended by a number of professional groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics. I think, for many of these screening tools, there's still important information that's emerging and that, I think, has actually been very encouraging in terms of the potential for identifying children at highest risk of autism in the general community.

There are a number of specific screening tools that can be used, and I don't think any of them are specific to having an older sibling with autism. I think that these screening tools can be used in a situation where there is sort of a level of concern, whether related to a family history, or simply because the parent has identified concerns or that, perhaps, the community has identified concerns through a general developmental assessment.

I also think these screening tools can be ultimately very informative even in the general community. So, some of the specific screening tools that are available include instruments that are named "The Checklist for Autism in Toddlers," "The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers," "The Screening Tool for Assessing Two-Year Olds," "The Communication and Symbolic Behavioral Scales." There's a specific questionnaire called "The Infant-Toddler Checklist."

I think these are very good questions for parents to bring to their healthcare provider. And I think that healthcare professionals have a responsibility to be aware of what the screening options are. And certainly the recommendation of, you know, professional bodies is that these screening tools be incorporated into regular healthcare and overall developmental surveillance, so that we can identify both children at increased risk of autism and children at increased risk of developmental delays more generally.