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How Accurate Are Tools for Diagnosing Autism?

Date Published: 
August 8, 2018

An analysis by researchers with the Cochrane Collection examined the accuracy of autism diagnostic tools for preschool children often used in the United States and elsewhere.

They found the ADOS test "is best for not missing children who have ASD and is similar to CARS and ADI-R in not falsely diagnosing ASD in a child who does not have ASD."1

ADOS, or Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, is accurate in populations with a high percentage of autism cases, but "overdiagnosis is likely if the tool is used in populations with a lower prevalence of ASD." The ADI-R is the Autism Diagnostic Interview ‐ Revised, and CARS stands for Childhood Autism Rating Scale.

"This finding supports current recommended practice for ASD diagnostic tools to be used as part of a multi-disciplinary assessment, rather than as stand-alone diagnostic instruments," the Cochrane scientists concluded.1


1. Randall M, Egberts KJ, Samtani A, Scholten RJPM, Hooft L, Livingstone N, Sterling‐Levis K, Woolfenden S, Williams K. Diagnostic tests for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in preschool children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2018, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD009044. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD009044.pub2.