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Screening for Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:

Condition InDepth

Screening for Autism Spectrum Disorders

The purpose of screening is early diagnosis and treatment. Screening tests are usually given to people without current symptoms, but who may be at high risk for certain diseases.

Children are screened for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) during regular check ups at 18 and 24 months of age. The doctor will look for problems that are common with ASD such as social, language, and behavior problems. The doctor may play or talk to the child. Parents will be asked about their child's development and any concerns they may have.

Screening Tests

There are many questionnaires and tests used to screen for ASD. A common one is called Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT). It is a group of questions answered by a parent. Some questions may be:

  • Does your child play pretend or make believe?
  • Does your child respond when you call their name?
  • Does your child look you in the eye when you are talking to, playing with, or dressing them?

Children who are at high risk for ASD may be given tests more often.


  • Autism. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/Autism/Pages/default.aspx. Accessed May 16, 2022.
  • Autism spectrum disorder. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-asd. Accessed May 16, 2022.
  • Autism spectrum disorders. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/autism-spectrum-disorders. Accessed May 16, 2022.


  • Kari Kuenn, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.