Autism screening is a method by which we search the entire population for children with a high probability of the disease, in this case with autism. This is a population currently considered healthy, with no prior diagnosis of autism.
During screening, the population is divided into into low-risk, medium-risk and high-risk. The fact that a child is moderate or high-risk does not mean that he or she has autism, but only that he or she is more likely to have autism than in a low-risk population. Children at risk are further diagnosed using the diagnostic methods listed in the Diagnostics menu.
We believe that in Slovakia it is necessary to introduce mandatory nationwide autism screening for every child aged 16-30 months. The reason is the expected high prevalence (incidence) of the disease.
We currently have a paediatrician’s screening in case of a parent’s or paediatrician’s concern about developmental disorder, but this screening is not always done. The reason for the introduction of mandatory screening for every child is also a significantly long latent phase, i.e., phase from the first manifestations of the disease to diagnosis. The existence of several screening tests that are available also speaks in favour of screening. These can also be in the form of questionnaires, so they are relatively easy to use; at the same time, they are not time consuming. We also have diagnostic methods that can adequately diagnose the child. However, the most important argument remains that early diagnosis of autism will allow early intervention, and this will fundamentally affect the prognosis of the disease.
Among several suitable methods available, we use the internationally recognized M-CHAT R questionnaire, at our center, which is also translated into Slovak language.
There are 20 questions with yes / no answers. The questionnaire is filled in by the parent. The administrator uses the template to evaluate the questionnaire.
If a medium risk is found/established, the second part of the M-CHAT F questionnaire is performed. This questionnaire was used to examine 16,071 children in the study during 18 and 24 months of prevention, thus reducing the age of diagnosis by an average of 2 years.