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Diagnosis and Early Intervention

produced April 2005

Success in School

produced May 2005

Program Information | Characteristics of Autism | Screening Questions | Effective Intervention | Resources

Screening Questions:
The Checklist for Autism in Toddlers

The CHAT (Checklist for Autism in Toddlers) is a quick screening that can be performed by a child’s pediatrician when the child is about 18 months old. If autism is suspected, the child is referred for more in-depth tests to obtain a conclusive diagnosis. Those more extensive examinations are done by a specialist in diagnosing autism, usually a child psychiatrist or psychologist.

Questions for the Parent

  1. Does your child ever pretend, for example, to make a cup of tea by using a toy cup and teapot, or pretend other things?

  2. Does your child ever use his or her index finger to point in order to indicate interest in something?

  3. Does your child take an interest in other children?

  4. Does your child enjoy playing peek-a-boo or hide-and-seek?

  5. Does your child ever bring objects over to you to show you something?

If the answer to two or more of the above questions is “no,” then autism is suspected (unless the child has some other severe generalized developmental delay).

Physician’s Observations

  1. During the appointment, has the child made eye contact with you?

  2. Get the child’s attention, then point across the room at an interesting object and say, “Oh, look! There’s a [name object].” Watch the child’s face. Does the child look across to see what you are pointing at?

  3. Get the child’s attention, then give the child a miniature toy cup and teapot and say, “Can you make a cup of tea?” Does the child pretend to pour out tea, drink it, etc? (Note: Pretend play should be enacted in a naturalistic way—use a familiar situation that occurs commonly in the family. It is possible that the child has never observed someone making tea. Choose a scenario that is common to the family, such as brushing teeth using a doll as a prop, etc.)

  4. Say to the child, “Where’s the light?” or “Show me the light.” Does the child point with his or her index finger at the light?

If the answer to two or more of the above is “no,” autism is suspected.

Source: From Bauer S., “Autism and the pervasive developmental disorders,” Part 2, Pediatrics in Review 1995; adapted from “CHAT,” British Journal of Psychiatry, 1992, 1996.

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