Validation of the Developmental Check-In Tool for Low-Literacy Autism Screening

Abstract [from journal]

Background: Persistent disparities exist in early identification of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among children from low-income families who are racial and/or ethnic minorities and where English is not the primary language. Parental literacy and level of maternal education may contribute to disparities. The Developmental Check-In (DCI) is a visually based ASD screening tool created to reduce literacy demands and to be easily administered and scored across settings. In a previous study, the DCI showed acceptable discriminative ability between ASD versus non-ASD in a young, underserved sample at high-risk for ASD. In this study, we tested the DCI among an unselected, general sample of young underserved children.

Methods: Six hundred twenty-four children ages 24 to 60 months were recruited through Head Start and Early Head Start. Parents completed the DCI, Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, Revised with Follow-Up, and Social Communication Questionnaire. Children scoring positive on any measure received evaluation for ASD. Those screening negative on both Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, Revised with Follow-Up and Social Communication Questionnaire were considered non-ASD.

Results: Parents were primarily Hispanic, reported high school education or less, and had public or no insurance. The DCI demonstrated good discriminative power (area under the curve = 0.80), performing well across all age groups, genders, levels of maternal education, primary language, and included ethnic and racial groups. Item-level analyses indicated that 24 of 26 DCI items discriminated ASD from non-ASD.

Conclusions: The DCI is a promising ASD screening tool for young, underserved children and may be of particular value in screening for ASD for those with low literacy levels or with limited English proficiency.