A systematic review of screening tools for the detection of autism spectrum disorder in mainland China and surrounding regions

Autism. 2020 Feb;24(2):285-296. doi: 10.1177/1362361319871174. Epub 2019 Aug 20.


Screening for autism spectrum disorder is the first step toward early detection and diagnosis, thereby impacting the likelihood of children accessing early intervention and, importantly, improving long-term outcomes. This systematic review aimed to (a) establish a clear baseline of autism spectrum disorder screening tools currently used throughout mainland China and surrounding regions, (b) identify the strengths and limitations of these instruments, and (c) develop specific recommendations regarding screening for autism spectrum disorder throughout Chinese-speaking countries. Databases were searched for recent (2015-2018) articles published in Chinese or English languages. Twenty-two studies (13 Chinese, 9 English) met inclusion criteria; two from Taiwan and the remainder from mainland China. Studies varied greatly in the extent of psychometric analyses and reported autism spectrum disorder prevalence. The majority of diagnoses were based on Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed. (DSM-IV) or 5th ed. (DSM-5)) criteria, although a small number of studies utilized gold-standard diagnostic assessment instruments. It is recommended that a systematic, multi-tiered, screening network be established to improve the identification of autism spectrum disorder in China and surrounding regions. Assessment and diagnosis need to be culturally appropriate, and amenable to low-resource settings. In addition, increased public awareness programs to reduce stigma will be important in improving outcomes for children with autism spectrum disorder.

Keywords: China; autism spectrum disorder; detection; diagnosis; low resource; review; screening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Child
  • China
  • Humans
  • Psychometrics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Taiwan