This CARS rating scale is used frequently by school psychologists in evaluating and providing a diagnosis of students presenting autism symptoms. The results include an explanation and scoring for student autism screening and diagnosis.
If There Is Concern...
Your child's rate of development or behavior has been brought to your attention because of concern at school or daycare. Or maybe you have been keeping a close eye on your little one and you notice he or she is having difficulty keeping up with his or her peers or handling social interactions. Your child may even have a speech delay.
If you are reading this article, it is probably because you are seeking some information just for common knowledge or because somebody close to you, most likely a child, is showing some signs that point out that something just isn't right. You may have had your child evaluated and had some probable causes ruled out, but you have yet to give up on finding your answer, so you can get help for your child. For 1 in 150 children's families, this answer is autism.
Know Much About Autism?
Chances are that you have heard of autism before as an educated adult, but may not know the signs or symptoms that a child would present that are considered autistic behaviors.
Autism is a neurological disorder of the brain that cannot be identified by just looking at the person affected by it. It is a series of mannerisms and behaviors that interfere with a child's ability to progress academically or intellectually, preventing him from reacting rationally toward his environment or peers.
The symptoms of autism might go unnoticed for some time, and some doctors may hesitate to diagnose it until the age of three, which can be a sad situation because early intervention is one of the best treatments available.
Some good news is all schools in the United States are mandated to provide special education services for students with learning disabilities as well as students with other forms of handicaps. They will usually have the child see the school psychologist for a psychological evaluation, and if they qualify for services, the child will be scheduled for an IEP (Individualized Education Program) and classroom placement.
How CARS Is Scored and What the Results Mean for Autistic Students
The 15-point scale that is used to score the child in each category is based on these 15 behavioral characteristics for students with autism:
- Relating to people
- Emotional response
- Body use
- Object use
- Adaptation to change
- Visual response
- Listening response
- Taste, smell, and touch response and use
- Fear or nervousness
- Verbal communication
- Nonverbal communication
- Activity level
- Intellectual response
- General impressions
The CARS rating scale has a cutoff score of 30, which means the child is considered to be autistic if he scores higher than that. Lower score numbers actually mean the child scored well on the test, and if the child scores less than 30, he or she is probably not autistic. The total score range for the results is between 15 to 60, with 15 being the highest score and that of a normal child.
If your child scores between 20 to 30, there may not be a diagnosis of autism, but there may still exist some degree of developmental delay, such as PDD-nos, another pervasive developmental disorder on the spectrum. The test results have so far proven to be accurate when the test is performed by a qualified professional, and successful scoring has been recorded when information is given by a parent or by directly observing the child.
Services That Can Help
If after being observed and taking tests that help rule out or confirm autism, your child has been found to have the pervasive development disorder, there are many free services your child is entitled to. Some may require you to qualify financially and some may not.
Your child may be eligible for placement in a class that can give him or her more attention and focus on where your child is lacking in academic or developmental skills. Other services, such as occupational therapy and ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis), may be available to you for free through your states free medical programs and outreach programs, like your local Autism Society.