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What is the Childhood Autism Rating Scale?

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  • Written By: Laura A.
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 16 September 2016
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The Childhood Autism Rating Scale is a scale that is used to assess the presence and severity of autism in children aged two and older. This assessment is performed by rating 15 different aspects of the child’s behavior. The test takes approximately 30 minutes to administer and must be done by a trained professional.

Autism can be very difficult to diagnose because it exists in varying degrees of severity. It is sometimes misdiagnosed because autistic behavior is similar to the behavior of several other developmental disorders. The Childhood Autism Rating Scale was established to determine if a child has autism as opposed to another type of disability. This test can also indicate the potential severity of a child’s individual case.

Testing a child for autism using the Childhood Autism Rating Scale involves answering a series of questions designed to compare the child’s behavior to what is considered normal behavior for a child of his or her age. Each of the 15 questions regarding behavior and ability is rated on a seven point scale which ranges from one for normal behavior to four for highly abnormal behavior, and includes half points. The numbers are then added up and the sum is used to determine the existence and severity of autism. The scores can range from 15 to 60 with anything above 30 considered to be part of the autism spectrum.

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The areas of behavior assessed by the Childhood Autism Rating Scale include interpersonal relationships, emotional responses, ability to adapt to change, verbal communication, nonverbal communication, and sensory perception. Some of the abilities that are rated by this scale are use of objects, intellectual responses, and listening responses. The person performing the test will also give a rating based on their general impression of the child and input from the parents.

This test should be carried out by a trained professional. Pediatricians, school psychologists, speech pathologists, and special education teachers can all be trained to use this scale. It is easy to find the questions used for the Childhood Autism Rating Scale in books or online, but parents should not attempt to assess their own child. Parental reports of the child’s behavior are considered as part of the assessment but only an expert can administer and interpret the questions that make up the scale.

Any score above 30 on the Childhood Autism Rating Scale is an indication of autism. Scores in the 30s indicate mild autism and scores in the upper 50s signal more severe cases. While a score in the range of 20 to 30 is not considered autistic, it can indicate other types of developmental delays. Children who are diagnosed with autism based on the Childhood Autism Rating Scale should meet with a behavioral psychologist and a speech therapist for further assessment and treatment.

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