Background: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be difficult to distinguish from other psychiatric disorders. The clinical assessment of ASD is lengthy, and has to be performed by a specialized clinician. Therefore, a screening instrument to aid in the identification of patients who may have undiagnosed ASD should be useful. The purpose of this study was to develop such a screening instrument.
Methods: Based on the 80 item Ritvo Autism and Asperger Diagnostic Scale-Revised (RAADS-R), we developed a 14 item self-evaluation questionnaire, the RAADS-14 Screen. In total, 135 adults with ASD and 508 psychiatric controls completed the abridged version of the RAADS-R.
Results: The RAADS-14 Screen score was significantly higher in the ASD group than in the control samples, with a median score of 32 for ASD, 15 for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and 11 for other psychiatric disorders (P < 0.001). A cut-off score of 14 or above reached a sensitivity of 97% and a specificity of 46 to 64%. A factor analysis identified three factors consistent with mentalizing deficits, social anxiety, and sensory reactivity relevant for the diagnosis of ASD. The psychometric properties of RAADS-14 Screen were shown to be satisfactory.
Conclusions: The results of this study indicate that RAADS-14 Screen is a promising measure in screening for ASD in adult psychiatric outpatients.