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  Last Updated on 07/13/2018

Enlisting Parents in the Race to Detect Autism Early Enough to Make a Difference

(Some information taken from the New York Times and from First Signs.)

Who better to spot autism than parents? Subtle changes in behavior may be more obvious to a mother or father who sees a child daily than to a pediatrician who has 50 other patients.
So experts want parents to play a larger role. They have taken a widely used screening tool, the Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, or the CHAT, and replaced a section that pediatricians complete with a series of yes-or-no questions for parents. It can be filled out in just a few minutes, ideally at home or in a waiting room before a child's checkup. It is available at http://www.firstsigns.org/downloads/m-chat.PDF.
(An explanation of the checklist and the scoring can be found at http://www.firstsigns.org/downloads/m-chat_scoring.PDF.)
Unlike its earlier version, which is extremely precise, the new M-CHAT casts a wide net. In England, studies of thousands of children showed that the CHAT, although it accurately identified many cases of autism, was so specific that it failed to detect a majority of cases. The M-CHAT, with looser boundaries and greater sensitivity, is intended to flag even subtle cases. Experts say that it will probably produce more false positives - flagging children who are not actually autistic - but that they prefer to err on the side of caution.



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