Screening Guidelines

The purpose of screening is to find a health problem early and treat it. Screening for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is recommended during regular check ups for children aged 18 and 24 months. (Other developmental screening may be done at 9, 18, and 30 months.)

The doctor will look for problems that are common with ASD such as social and language skills, and behavior. The doctor may play or talk to your child. You will be asked questions about your child’s development.

This is a good time for you to talk openly to your child's doctor. You may have concerns about how your child is growing and behaving. Tell the doctor if you think your child is not developing normally or has regressed. It is very important to share these concerns as soon as you notice them.

Screening Tests

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

  • 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?

If your child is at high risk for ASD, screening may be done more often. High risk includes:

  • Low birth weight
  • Premature birth
  • A brother or sister with ASD or other developmental problem

Autism spectrum disorder. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: Updated March 2018. Accessed August 16, 2019.

Autism spectrum disorders. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated July 1, 2019. Accessed August 16, 2019.

How pediatricians screen for autism. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: Updated February 18, 2016. Accessed August 16, 2019.

Screening and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated April 26, 2018. Accessed August 16, 2019.

Last reviewed December 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD  Last Updated: 8/16/2019