The aim is to develop a robust screening tool for the identification of autism spectrum conditions (ASC) in toddlers. The Q-CHAT project builds on 15 years of research into screening for ASC in toddlers by the Autism Research Centre (ARC).
The ARC pioneered early screening for autism at 18 months of age, using the CHAT (Checklist for Autism in Toddlers). Previous research tested the CHAT in a total population of 16,000 children. It found the CHAT had good specificity but low sensitivity as a screening instrument (failing the test was a good predictor for later autism, but many cases – particularly of Asperger Syndrome – were missed.)
A grant from the Big Lottery Fund enabled a revision of the screening instrument to be tested on 4000 children. This is known as the Q-CHAT (or Quantitative Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (Q-CHAT) and was administered at 18-30 months of age in a population in Cambridgeshire, Luton and Bedfordshire.
Our CLAHRC research is following up the sample now that the children are 4 years old, to identify if the Q-CHAT can accurately predict an autism diagnosis in the early school years. Multiple methods will be used to determine the total number of children in the screened population meeting diagnostic criteria for ASC, including face to face home visit assessments using standardized diagnostic instruments (ADOS and ADI-R). Validation data will be available in 2012.
We work with NHS Cambridgeshire, NHS Luton PCT and NHS Bedfordshire, the National Autistic Society and other autism charities, such as the Autism Research Trust, Red2Green, Autism Anglia.
We have a database of nearly 4000 individuals with a diagnosis of ASC who have registered at our website as volunteers (www.autismresearchcentre.com). As well as participating in our studies, volunteers have the opportunity to feed back about their experiences of taking part in research and they often put forward ideas for new research.
The published academic article related to this study can be accessed here.
Carrie Allison, Simon Baron-Cohen, Sally Wheelwright, Tony Charman, Jennifer Richler, Greg Pasco and Carol Brayne (2008) the Q-CHAT (Quantitative Checklist for Autism in Toddlers): A Normally Distributed Quantitative Measure of Autistic Traits at 18-24 Months of Age: Preliminary Report, Journal of Autism and Development Disorders 38: 8, 1414-1425.