Previous research has found that children with Autistic Disorder, who are identified and treated before 5 years old, appear to benefit more from intensive treatment than those children treated after age 5 (Fenske, Zalenski, Krantz, & McClannahan, 1985). Although children with Autistic Disorder show deficits in pointing, showing objects, looking at others, and orienting to name early in their development (Osterling & Dawson, 1994), they are generally diagnosed between 3 (Kabot, Masi, & Segal, 2003) to 5 years old (Rhoades, Scarpa, & Salley, 2007) when their expressive and receptive language are notably delayed. In an attempt to decrease the age of diagnoses, the M-CHAT, a screening tool, has been used to screen toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorders (Robins, Fein, Barton, & Green, 2001). However, to the authors' knowledge, no research has been conducted with Spanish-speaking populations and the utility of the M-CHAT.
To examine differences in response patterns on English and Spanish M-CHATs administered to English- and Spanish-speaking mothers of toddlers from an at risk population.
Data were collected from 431 toddlers between 17 and 30 months of age (105 Spanish, 326 English). Because no previous research has been done with the Spanish M-CHAT, no hypotheses are made regarding response patterns between the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking populations.
Preliminary Pearson Chi-Square analyses showed that English-speaking and Spanish-speaking mothers demonstrated significantly different response patterns in 5 of the 23 items of the M-CHAT. Chi-Square analyses revealed that Spanish-speaking mothers were more likely to report higher levels of symptomatology on M-CHAT number 1, c2(1, N = 460) = 7.28, p > .01, number 11, c2(1, N = 460) = 54.658, p > .01, and number 18, c2(1, N = 460) = 24.56, p > .01 than English-speaking mothers. However, English-speaking mothers were more likely to report higher level of symptomatology than Spanish-speaking mothers on item number 13, c2(1, N = 460) = 3.61, p = .058, and number 22, c2(1, N = 460) = 5.15, p > .05.
This study found differences in response patterns between English-speaking and Spanish-speaking mothers of toddlers on five items of the M-CHAT, including a critical item (number 13). Spanish-speaking mothers reported higher levels of symptomatology on three items while English-speaking mothers reported higher levels of symptomatology on two items from the 23-item M-CHAT. Our findings suggest differences in screening information provided between English- and Spanish-speaking populations. As a result, Spanish and English M-CHATs might be confounded by language differences; therefore, potentially producing erroneous conclusions about the presence or absence of a child's symptoms. To reduce the confounding effects of these language differences, future research should determine whether the results are due to language differences in interpretation or in the translation of the measure.