by Action Behavior Centers
Early identification of developmental disorders allows for earlier intervention, thereby boosting a child’s ability to significantly improve in the areas of language, cognition, social and play skills.
Accordingly, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that autism-specific screening tests should be administered to all children at 18- and 24-month visits.
One of the scientifically-validated tools recommended by the AAP is the M-CHAT (Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers) parent-report screening assessment. Developed by neuropsychologists Diana Robins, Deborah Fein, and clinical psychologist Marianna Barton, the 20-question evaluation only takes about 10 minutes to complete and provides parents with a risk score. “High-risk” scores signal that the child needs further evaluation from an autism specialist.
It’s important to note that M-CHAT isn’t a perfect diagnostic tool. In some cases, a child may be flagged as “at risk” for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) but won’t go on to be diagnosed with ASD. That’s why it’s essential for parents to follow-up an M-CHAT assessment with a specialist in the field.
A core issue in the autism community is that children on the Spectrum aren’t receiving ASD diagnoses until after age 3, or in some cases, until they’ve reached school age. In fact, as highlighted in a study published in the April 2017 issue of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Boston University researchers combed through data from the National Survey of Children’s Health (2011-2012) and the National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs (2009-2010), finding that one-third to one-half of ASD cases weren’t identified until after 6 years of age. These late diagnoses prevent children from accessing the therapy they need.
M-CHAT helps parents kickstart the diagnosis process. After receiving a “high-risk” M-CHAT score, parents can immediately schedule a diagnostic evaluation to determine their child’s eligibility for early intervention, namely Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. ABA therapy, backed by a decade of research, is the leading treatment approach to help children on the Spectrum improve their developmental deficiencies.
For quick access to M-CHAT, Action Behavior Centers, an ABA therapy center located in Austin, Texas, has built an online tool that instantly emails the results and scores to parents: http://www.actionbehavior.com/mchat/
“M-CHAT is such an important screening tool and we want to make it available for parents on our website,” says Ryan Lambert, President of Action Behavior Centers. “You can get instant results, and if your child is at high-risk for autism, we can do follow-up diagnostics. Our pediatrician will then complete a formal diagnosis if appropriate.”
Recent research reveals that the wait to see a developmental specialist is usually five months or longer, and when it comes to early intervention, there’s no time to waste. Action Behavior Centers is working to solve this predicament in the autism community by providing parents with easy access to the M-CHAT, as well as staffing an in-house pediatrician for no-delay diagnosis — something that’s not typically done in ABA therapy centers.
Above all, the goal is to simplify the access to care for children on the Spectrum and help them reach their highest potential.