Objectives: Our objectives were: 1) to identify social & communication skills that distinguish between severe and moderate autism; 2) to identify social-communication skills that distinguish between mild autism and typical development; and 3) to recommend simplified algorithms for autism diagnosis in the population of USA and Puerto Rico Latino children.
Methods: The method consisted of an IRB-approved record-review investigation of 260 children seen at our Autism Diagnostic Clinic. We analyzed gender, DSM-IV traits, social skills, communication profiles, CARS scores, and diagnostic impressions for this sample. Based on this analysis we conducted statistical calculations to describe the traits that assist in the above-distinctions and provide arguments for a simplified algorithm that can be used validly with the population of Latino children with suspected autism.
Results: Data from the investigation indicates that most children with autism were males, with social interaction disorders as the most frequent DSM-IV trait, followed by repetitive behaviors and, finally, communication impairments, 42.40% were diagnosed with autism and the rest had other developmental disablities and no-disorders. The most distinguishing CARS characteristics between severe and moderate autism dealt with emphatic behaviors and pragmatic functions. Other distinctive features included mesaage conveyance, detailed story telling, and sustained attention. High-functioning autism represented 15.70%, moderate autism was 15.70%, and low autism was 22.80%.
Conclusions: Our findings revealed that three CARS items are the most distinguishing items for an autism diagnosis, i.e., relationships with other persons (item #1), imitation (#2), and non-verbal communication (#12). These items need to be used in improved diagnostic protocols that are culturally and linguistically appropriate for the population of Latino chiuldren with autism-risk.
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