The Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) and the Social Responsiveness Scales (SRS) are commonly used screeners for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Data from the Study to Explore Early Development were used to examine variations in the performance of these instruments by child characteristics and family demographics. For both instruments, specificity decreased as maternal education and family income decreased. Specificity was decreased with lower developmental functioning and higher behavior problems. This suggests that the false positive rates of the SRS and the SCQ are associated with child characteristics and family demographic factors. There is a need for ASD screeners that perform well across socioeconomic and child characteristics. Clinicians should be mindful of differential performance of these instruments in various groups of children.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (2016). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/addm.html.
Achenbach, T. M., & Rescorla, L. A. (2001). Manual for the ASEBA school-age forms & profiles. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont, Research Center for Children, Youth, & Families.
Allen, C., Silove, N., Williams, K., & Hutchins, P. (2007). Validity of the social communication questionnaire in assessing risk of autism in preschool children with developmental problems. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37(7), 1272–1278.
Andrade, C. (2015). A primer on confidence intervals in psychopharmacology. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 76(2), 228–231.
Berument, S. K., Rutter, M., Lord, C., Pickles, A., & Bailey, A. (1999). Autism screening questionnaire: Diagnostic validity. British Journal of Psychiatry, 175, 444–451.
Bölte, S., Poustka, F., & Constantino, J. N. (2008). Assessing autistic traits: Cross-cultural validation of the social responsiveness scale (SRS). Autism Research, 1(6), 354–363.
Bölte, S., Westerwald, E., Holtmann, M., Freitag, C., & Poustka, F. (2011). Autistic traits and autism spectrum disorders: The clinical validity of two measures presuming a continuum of social communication skills. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 41(1), 66–72. doi:10.1007/s10803-010-1024-9.
Charman, T., Baird, G., Simonoff, E., Loucas, T., Chandler, S., Meldrum, D., & Pickles, A. (2007). Efficacy of three screening instruments in the identification of autistic-spectrum disorders. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 191(6), 554–559.
Cholemkery, H., Kitzerow, J., Rohrmann, S., & Freitag, C. M. (2014). Validity of the social responsiveness scale to differentiate between autism spectrum disorders and disruptive behaviour disorders. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 23(2), 81–93.
Connor, M. (1998). A review of behavioural early intervention programmes for children with autism. Educational Psychology in Practice, 14, 109–117.
Constantino, J., & Gruber, C. (2005). Social responsiveness scale. Los Angeles: CA: Western Psychological Services.
Constantino, J. N. (2002). The social responsiveness scale. Los Angeles, CA: Western Psychological Services.
Constantino, J. N., Abbacchi, A. M., Lavesser, P. D., Reed, H., Givens, L., Chiang, L., … Todd, R. D. (2009). Developmental course of autistic social impairment in males. Development and Psychopathology, 21(01), 127–138.
Constantino, J. N., Davis, S. A., Todd, R. D., Schindler, M. K., Gross, M. M., Brophy, S. L., … Reich, W. (2003a). Validation of a brief quantitative measure of autistic traits: Comparison of the Social Responsiveness Scale with the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 33(4), 427–433.
Constantino, J. N., Gruber, C. P., Davis, S., Hayes, S., Passanante, N., & Przybeck, T. (2004). The factor structure of autistic traits. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45(4), 719–726.
Constantino, J. N., Hudziak, J. J., & Todd, R. D. (2003b). Deficits in reciprocal social behavior in male twins: Evidence for a genetically independent domain of psychopathology. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 42(4), 458–467. doi:10.1097/01.CHI.0000046811.95464.21.
Constantino, J. N., LaVesser, P. D., Zhang, Y., Abbacchi, A. M., Gray, T., & Todd, R. D. (2007). Rapid quantitative assessment of autistic social impairment by classroom teachers. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 46(12), 1668–1676.
Constantino, J. N., & Todd, R. D. (2003). Autistic traits in the general population: A twin study. Archives of General Psychiatry, 60(5), 524–530.
Constantino, J. N., & Todd, R. D. (2005). Intergenerational transmission of subthreshold autistic traits in the general population. Biological Psychiatry, 57(6), 655–660.
Corsello, C., Hus, V., Pickles, A., Risi, S., Cook, E. H., Leventhal, B. L., & Lord, C. (2007). Between a ROC and a hard place: Decision making and making decisions about using the SCQ. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 48(9), 932–940.
Cumming, G. (2014). The new statistics: Why and how. Psychological Science, 25(1), 7–29. doi:10.1177/0956797613504966.
DiGuiseppi, C. G., Daniels, J. L., Fallin, D. M., Rosenberg, S. A., Schieve, L. A., Thomas, K. C., … Schendel, D. E. (2016). Demographic profile of families and children enrolled in the Study to Explore Early Development (SEED): A case-control study of autism spectrum disorder. Disability Health Journal, 64, 332–341.
Duvall, J. A., Lu, A., Cantor, R. M., Todd, R. D., Constantino, J. N., & Geschwind, D. H. (2007). A quantitative trait locus analysis of social responsiveness in multiplex autism families. American Journal of Psychiatry, 164(4), 656–662.
Eaves, L. C., Wingert, H. D., Ho, H. H., & Mickelson, E. C. (2006). Screening for autism spectrum disorders with the social communication questionnaire. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 27(2), S95–S103.
Filipek, P. A., Accardo, P. J., Baranek, G. T., Cook, E. H., Dawson, G., Gordon, B., … Volkmar, F. R. (1999). The screening and diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 29(6), 439–484. doi:10.1023/a:1021943802493.
Frazier, T. W., Ratliff, K. R., Gruber, C., Zhang, Y., Law, P. A., & Constantino, J. N. (2014). Confirmatory factor analytic structure and measurement invariance of quantitative autistic traits measured by the Social Responsiveness Scale-2. Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice, 8(1), 31–44. doi:10.1177/1362361313500382.
Glascoe, F. P. (2005). Screening for developmental and behavioral problems. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews, 11(3), 173–179. doi:10.1002/mrdd.20068.
Ho, A., Todd, R. D., & Constantino, J. N. (2005). Brief report: Autistic traits in twins vs. non-twins—a preliminary study. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 35(1), 129–133.
Huerta, M., & Lord, C. (2012). Diagnostic evaluation of autism spectrum disorders. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 59(1), 103–111. doi:10.1016/j.pcl.2011.10.018.
Hus, V., Bishop, S., Gotham, K., Huerta, M., & Lord, C. (2013). Factors influencing scores on the social responsiveness scale. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 54(2), 216–224.
Jacobson, J. W., Mulick, J. A., & Green, G. (1998). Cost-benefit estimates for early intensive behavioral intervention for young children with autism—general model and single state case. Behavioral Interventions, 13(4), 201–226.
Johnson, C. P., & Myers, S. M. (2007). Identification and evaluation of children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics, 120(5), 1183–1215.
Lord, C., Risi, S., Lambrecht, L., Cook, E. H. Jr., Leventhal, B. L., DiLavore, P. C., … Rutter, M. (2000). The Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-Generic: A standard measure of social and communication deficits associated with the spectrum of autism. Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 30(3), 205–223.
Lord, C., & Rutter, M. (1994). Autism diagnostic interview-revised: A revised version of a diagnostic interview for caregivers of individuals with possible pervasive developmental disorders. Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 24(5), 659–685.
Mullen, E. M. (1995). Mullen scales of early learning (pp. 58–64). Circle Pines, MN: AGS.
Oosterling, I., Rommelse, N., de Jonge, M., van der Gaag, R. J., Swinkels, S., Roos, S., … Buitelaar, J. (2010a). How useful is the Social Communication Questionnaire in toddlers at risk of autism spectrum disorder? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 51(11), 1260–1268. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2010.02246.x.
Oosterling, I. J., Wensing, M., Swinkels, S. H., Van Der Gaag, R. J., Visser, J. C., Woudenberg, T., … Buitelaar, J. K. (2010b). Advancing early detection of autism spectrum disorder by applying an integrated two-stage screening approach. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 51(3), 250–258.
Peters-Scheffer, N., Didden, R., Korzilius, H., & Matson, J. (2012). Cost comparison of early intensive behavioral intervention and treatment as usual for children with autism spectrum disorder in the Netherlands. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 33(6), 1763–1772. doi:10.1016/j.ridd.2012.04.006.
Pine, D. S., Guyer, A. E., Goldwin, M., Towbin, K. A., & Leibenluft, E. (2008). Autism spectrum disorder scale scores in pediatric mood and anxiety disorders. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 47(6), 652–661. doi:10.1097/CHI.0b013e31816bffa5.
Pine, E., Luby, J., Abbacchi, A., & Constantino, J. N. (2006). Quantitative assessment of autistic symptomatology in preschoolers. Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice, 10(4), 344–352.
Reiersen, A. M., Constantino, J. N., Volk, H. E., & Todd, R. D. (2007). Autistic traits in a population-based ADHD twin sample. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 48(5), 464–472. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2006.01720.x.
Rogers, S. J. (1998). Empirically supported comprehensive treatments for young children with autism. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 27(2), 168–179.
Rutter, M., Bailey, A., & Lord, C. (2003). Social communication questionnaire. Los Angeles, CA: Western Psychological Services.
Scarpa, A., Reyes, N. M., Patriquin, M. A., Lorenzi, J., Hassenfeldt, T. A., Desai, V. J., & Kerkering, K. W. (2013). The modified checklist for autism in toddlers: Reliability in a diverse rural american sample. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43(10), 2269–2279. doi:10.1007/s10803-013-1779-x.
Schanding, G. T. Jr., Nowell, K. P., & Goin-Kochel, R. P. (2012). Utility of the social communication questionnaire-current and social responsiveness scale as teacher-report screening tools for autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42(8), 1705–1716. doi:10.1007/s10803-011-1412-9.
Schendel, D., DiGuiseppi, C., Croen, L., Fallin, M. D., Reed, P., Schieve, L., … Yeargin-Allsopp, M. (2012). The Study to Explore Early Development (SEED): A Multisite Epidemiologic Study of Autism by the Centers for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research and Epidemiology (CADDRE) Network. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42(10), 2121–2140. doi:10.1007/s10803-012-1461-8.
Snow, A. V., & Lecavalier, L. (2008). Sensitivity and specificity of the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers and the Social Communication Questionnaire in preschoolers suspected of having pervasive developmental disorders. Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice, 12(6), 627–644. doi:10.1177/1362361308097116.
Sparrow, S. S., Balla, D. A., & Cicchetti, D. (2005). Vineland adaptive behavior scales. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.
The OSU Research Unit on Pediatric Psychopharmacology (2005). OSU Autism Rating Scale-DSM-IV (OARS; Adapted for SEED). Retrieved from http://psychmed.osu.edu/resources.htm.
Virkud, Y. V., Todd, R. D., Abbacchi, A. M., Zhang, Y., & Constantino, J. N. (2009). Familial aggregation of quantitative autistic traits in multiplex versus simplex autism. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics, 150(3), 328–334.
Wang, J., Lee, L. -C., Chen, Y. -S., & Hsu, J. -W. (2012). Assessing autistic traits in a Taiwan preschool population: cross-cultural validation of the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS). Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42(11), 2450–2459.
Wiggins, L. D., Bakeman, R., Adamson, L. B., & Robins, D. L. (2007). The utility of the Social Communication Questionnaire in screening for autism in children referred for early intervention. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 22(1), 33–38.
Wiggins, L. D., Barger, B., Moody, E., Soke, G., Pandey, J., & Levy, S. (2017). Brief report: The ados calibrated severity score best measures autism diagnostic symptom severity in pre-school children. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. doi:10.1007/s10803-017-3072-x 28265795.
Wiggins, L. D., Reynolds, A., Rice, C. E., Moody, E. J., Bernal, P., Blaskey, L., ... Levy, S. E. (2015). Using standardized diagnostic instruments to classify children with autism in the study to explore early development. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45(5), 1271–1280.
Witwer, A. N., & Lecavalier, L. (2007). Autism screening tools: An evaluation of the social communication questionnaire and the developmental behaviour checklist–autism screening algorithm. Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability, 32(3), 179–187.
This research is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Research, Study to Explore Early Development through six cooperative agreements: Cooperative Agreement Number U10DD000180, Colorado Department of Public Health/University of Colorado School of Medicine; Cooperative Agreement Number U10DD000181, Kaiser Foundation Research Institute (CA); Cooperative Agreement Number U10DD000182, University of Pennsylvania; Cooperative Agreement Number U10DD000183, Johns Hopkins University; Cooperative Agreement Number U10DD000184, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Cooperative Agreement Number U10DD000498, Michigan State University. Additional support came in part from core grants awarded to JFK Partners, the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at the University Colorado School of Medicine from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Administration on Developmental Disabilities Grant #90DD0561.
EJM developed the analysis idea, coordinated analysis and writing activities, oversaw development of the manuscript. NR conducted literature reviews, participated in writing and conceptual development of the analysis. CL conducted the analyses, and contributed to writing the manuscript. LW participated in the design of the analysis, oversaw data collection from one of the sites and contributed to the writing of the manuscript. CD participated in the design of the analysis, oversaw data collection from one of the sites and contributed to the writing of the manuscript. AA contributed to the initial design of the analysis, and contributed to the writing of the manuscript. SJ contributed to the initial design of the analysis, and contributed to the writing of the manuscript. LL participated in the design of the analysis and contributed to the writing of the manuscript. SEL participated in the design of the analysis and contributed to the writing of the manuscript. SAR participated in the design of the analysis and contributed to the writing of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Each participating site (California, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina & Pennsylvania) each obtained Institutional Review Board approval separately from their home institutions before any data were collected.
About this article
Cite this article
Moody, E.J., Reyes, N., Ledbetter, C. et al. Screening for Autism with the SRS and SCQ: Variations across Demographic, Developmental and Behavioral Factors in Preschool Children. J Autism Dev Disord 47, 3550–3561 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-017-3255-5
- Maternal education