Autism diagnosis, explained BY HANNAH FURFARO / 5 NOVEMBER 2018


  • Clinicians diagnose autism using behavioral tests for the core features of the condition: communication difficulties, social challenges and restricted or repetitive behaviors.
  • The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT), developed in the early 1990s, is the preferred screening tool and is widely used in the United States.
  • To diagnose the children these screens flag, clinicians typically use a pair of standardized behavioral tests: the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) and the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R).
  • Scientists developed diagnostic tests for autism largely using data from boys, so the tests are not as good at detecting autism in girls. Autism is also underdiagnosed among minorities and children from low-income families, although it’s unclear whether existing diagnostic tools contribute to the disparity.

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