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Clinical Summary

Autism Spectrum Disorder in Young Children: Screening

Recommendations made by the USPSTF are independent of the U.S. government. They should not be construed as an official position of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Population Children aged 18 to 30 months for whom no concerns of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have been raised by their parents or a clinician
Recommendation No recommendation.
Grade: I (insufficient evidence)
Risk Assessment Although a number of potential risk factors for ASD have been identified, there is insufficient evidence to determine if certain risk factors modify the performance characteristics of ASD screening tests, such as the age at which screening is performed or other characteristics of the child or family.
Screening Tests The most commonly studied tool is the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) and its subsequent revisions. A positive finding should lead to a follow-up interview, which, if positive, should lead to a full diagnostic workup for ASD.
Treatment and Interventions Treatments for ASD include behavioral, medical, educational, speech/language, and occupational therapy and complementary and alternative medicine approaches. Treatments for young children are primarily behavioral interventions, particularly early intensive behavioral and developmental interventions.
Balance of Benefits and Harms The USPSTF concludes that there is insufficient evidence to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening for ASD in young children for whom no concerns of ASD have been raised.
Other Relevant USPSTF Recommendations The USPSTF has made a recommendation on screening for speech and language delays and disorders among children 5 years or younger. These recommendations are available on the USPSTF Web site (

For a summary of the evidence systematically reviewed in making these recommendations, the full recommendation statement, and supporting documents, please go to

Current as of: February 2016

Internet Citation: Clinical Summary: Autism Spectrum Disorder in Young Children: Screening. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. February 2016.

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