New Hampshire Council on Autism Spectrum Disorders
Putting the Pieces Together in the Granite State
Virtual Resource Center
LEARN the SIGNS, Early Periodic Screening
HOMEFamily PortalSystems of CareLearn the SignsTreatment  PlanningStaying on CourseTransition

Early Periodic Screening

Many parents have nagging doubts about their child's behavior long before a diagnosis of ASD or another developmental disability is made. You may wonder if there is something wrong with your baby's hearing or sight. Your child may seem unusually fussy or just the opposite, almost "too good." It is important to take these insights seriously and to share these concerns with your child's doctor at routine well child checks.  There is no lab or blood test that indicates a developmental delay; instead your doctor may ask you questions and play with your child for a few minutes.  

Pediatric healthcare providers also use professionally developed questionnaires such as The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT; Robins, Fein, & Barton, 1999) to structure their assessment of how your child is doing.  Called a "developmental screening," this type of interview is far less detailed than a diagnostic evaluation.  A good screening tool will not miss any children that could benefit from follow up, but it may select children that, with further assessment, are found to be developing typically.

To Learn More...
I know the signs of healthy child development.
For a fun way to look at your three year old's development, link here to see Amazing Me
Next Steps

It is very important to keep in mind that if your child screens positive for a developmental delay, this does not mean that s/he has autism or another developmental disability.  It does mean that your doctor will want to pay special attention to your child's development, taking a two pronged approach. 

To help you organize these next steps, early childhood professionals in the Granite State have created a 
NH Road Map for Helping Your Child Grow.  


The NH Council on Autism Spectrum Disorders
21 S. Fruit Street
Concord, NH  03301

Council HOMECouncil BROCHURENH Virtual Resource CtrCALENDAR of EventsASD in the News

Copyright (c) 2012 NH Council on ASD, all right reserved
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all children be screened for autism at the 9 month, the 18 month, and the 30 month (or 24 month if indicated) well child check ups.  Screening, however, does not need to be restricted to these visits, nor does it have to be conducted by a doctor.  Your community family resource center or childcare provider may offer screening.  Parents can even fill out a simple screening tool on their own:  Easter Seals, through support from the CVS Caremark Charitable Trust, provides parents with FREE access to the Ages & Stages Questionnaires®, Third Edition, which is another commonly used developmental screening tools. To learn more and take the questionnaire, link here.

Developmental screening should take place early and often.  But the most important element of any screening is follow-up. If your child has a positive screening in a setting other than a well child check up -- or if you simply have questions based on your experience of filling out a screening tool -- be sure to share these questions and results with your child's doctor.

Refer you to services designed to promote child development.  

These are NH Family Centered Early Supports and Services (ESS) (before age 3) or Preschool Special Education (after age 3). 

Providers for these programs will make an independent evaluation of your child's eligibility. Again, keep in mind that this is not a formal diagnostic evaluation. 

To find your ESS provider, link here.  To find your preschool special education director, link here. For tips on what say when you call your ESS or school district office, link here
Take a closer look at your child's Development

There are a couple of approaches that you and your child's doctor can discuss:

"Watchful Waiting," which means your doctor would like to screen your child again soon, even before the next well-child check. 

Referral for a more detailed child development assessment by a specialist, typically a doctor trained in child development, neurology, or psychiatry. For tips on what to ask for when you call for an appointment, link here. For a MAP of child development clinics in Northern New England, link here.