ScreenOurKids.org Provides Free Checklist
MELBOURNE, FLA. — The Scott Center for Autism Treatment at Florida Institute of Technology has launched ScreenOurKids.org to offer parents and caregivers access to a scientifically validated tool for screening children between 16 and 30 months of age to assess their risk for developmental delays such as autism.
The site offers the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, or M-CHAT-R™. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines are clear in stating that all children should receive autism screening between 18 and 24 months of age, and the M-CHAT-R is one of the AAP’s recommended tools. However, less than 50 percent of children receive formal screening. The Scott Center aims to increase screening rates by providing this free online service.
The launch of ScreenOurKids.org is part of the Scott Center’s goal of harnessing the power and reach of the Internet to extend its mission of serving families, especially those in rural and underserved communities. Previous initiatives in this effort include AutismAdvisor.org, which offers free essential resources for families and communities, including more than 100 Scott Center-produced videos and other resources on early diagnosis, therapy options, teaching living skills and more.
“The M–CHAT-R gauges risk for autism spectrum disorder and, when appropriate, recommends when parents should seek further testing and evaluation,” said Michael E. Kelley, Ph.D., executive director of the Scott Center and a professor of psychology at Florida Tech.
Children who ultimately receive a diagnosis for autism benefit enormously from early treatment and intervention, Kelley added.
“Kids who receive applied behavior analysis treatment during pre-school age have a 50 percent chance of being indistinguishable from their peers by elementary school,” he said. “Without intervention, only 2 percent will show such improvements.”
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 15 percent of children in the United States have a developmental delay, including autism. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends pediatricians screen children for developmental disabilities using a validated screening tool at regular intervals before the age of 2, but data from the National Survey of Children’s Health reveals that only about one in five children ages 10 months to 6 years were screened by their pediatricians in the preceding year.
The automated M-CHAT-R questionnaire at ScreenOurKids.org allows parents access to the same highly effective screening tools used by pediatricians. The questionnaire is simple and easy to use, and the screening test takes less than 10 minutes. Parents can review, print and save the results to share with their child’s doctor or other developmental specialist. The screening can also be completed and results provided anonymously.
The launch of ScreenOurKids.org is accompanied by an outreach campaign designed for daycare and pre-school staff. These professionals work with young children daily and often have an excellent perspective on children’s developmental progress. By completing an online form at ScreenOurKids.org/poster, daycare and pre-school professionals can receive a free, 24-by-36-inch “Don’t Miss a Step” four-color poster about autism and warning signs of developmental delays in children up to 3-years-old.