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(SDAS) Making a More Effective and Efficient SCQ


  • Perinatal/Infancy (0-12 months)
  • Toddlerhood (13-35 months)
  • Early Childhood (3-5 years)
  • Middle Childhood (6-11 years)
  • Adolescence (12-18 years)
  • Young Adulthood (19-25 years)


There is a growing public health concern over individuals being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 1 in 88 children are diagnosed with ASD (CDC, 2012). While early intervention has been indicated as producing positive long term outcomes for individuals with ASD (e.g., Eldevik, et al., 2009; Landa & Kalb, 2012, Vismara & Rogers, 2010), early intervention is predicated upon early identification. Early identification begins first with a large number of individuals completing a screening instrument en masse or individually through their pediatrician or educational system. After screening, individuals are identified as being at risk for ASD and referred for formal diagnostic assessment. The Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ; Berument et al., 1999) is one of the most widely used and studied screening instruments in identifying individuals at risk for ASD (Bolte, Holtmann, & Poustka, 2008). However, relatively outdated statistical techniques (e.g., classical test theory) continue to be utilized in the development of screening instruments for ASD including the SCQ. The purpose of the proposed project is to develop a more effective and efficient SCQ as a screening instrument using Item response theory and Mokken scaling that address technical limitations of classical test theory. To achieve this purpose, two specific aims will be pursued. Specific Aims: 1) to reexamine the psychometric properties of the SCQ using Item Response theory with the largest sample of responses to date via NDAR (National Database of Autism Research), thereby improving the effectiveness of the SCQ as a reliable and valid screener for ASD; 2) to prescribe a hierarchy of items using Mokken scaling techniques thereby improving the efficiency of the SCQ. We hypothesize that a more effective and efficient version of the SCQ scoring procedure will be developed that takes into account measurement bias according to age, gender, and ethnic group as appropriate. If so, the potential public health benefit will be (1) more reliable and valid screening of ASD via the SCQ, (2) reduction of risk of anxiety and stress for families erroneously referred for diagnostic evaluation of ASD due to false positive outcomes of the SCQ, and (3) earlier identification of ASD so early intervention can be initiated as soon as possible.


Listed is descending order by year published.

Barnard-Brak, L., Brewer, A., Chesnut, S., Richman, D. and Schaeffer, A.M. (2016), The sensitivity and specificity of the social communication questionnaire for autism spectrum with respect to age. Autism Research, 9: 838-845.

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