Screening for Autism with the SRS and SCQ: Variations across Demographic, Developmental and Behavioral Factors in Preschool Children

Abstract

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.

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Funding

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.

Author Contributions

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.

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Correspondence to Eric J. Moody.

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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.

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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

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Keywords

  • Autism
  • Screener
  • Demographics
  • Maternal education
  • Development