autism spectrum disorder checklist
December 20, 2023

Autism Spectrum Disorder Checklist

There is no medical test to determine whether a child has autism spectrum disorder. The most reliable diagnosis is made by various specialists looking at the child’s behaviors. This also involves certain tests to identify the severity of the disorder if the child has it.

However, there are resources and checklists to see if the child needs further testing or intervention, such as the M-CHAT-R test.

What is the M-CHAT-R?

The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, Revised, M-CHAT-R in short, is a screening tool. This checklist asks a series of 20 questions about the child’s behavior.

The checklist is designed for children between 16 and 30 months of age. Although the results do not equal a diagnosis, they will let the parents or the caregivers know if further evaluation may be needed.

The results obtained from the tests could also guide the parents or the caregivers in what to ask or discuss with the child’s primary healthcare provider.

Parents and caregivers know their child the best. If your child tests negative but you still have concerns about your child’s development, act on your concern. These tools are not designed to be perfect or provide a diagnosis.

If you have concerns, contact your child’s doctor or your local early intervention center near you, if any. If your child tests positive, it is best to act on it immediately rather than waiting to see.

Autism Spectrum Disorder Communication Checklist

ASD mainly affects the individual’s ability to communicate. There are some symptoms children may exhibit while they are growing up, indicating that they may have autism.

Here is a simple checklist for communication skills for ASD:

  • Few or no spoken words
  • No use of gestures
  • No gibbering
  • Not communicating their needs or thoughts in any manner
  • Repetition of words from movies or other people
  • Not responding to their names when called
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Not initiating interactions with others
  • Having a flat tone of voice
  • Not understanding sarcasm
  • Being literal in conversations
  • Not correctly understanding the intended meaning of words
  • Giving unrelated answers to questions
  • Reversing pronouns when speaking

If you feel like your child exhibits some of the behaviors above, consult your pediatrician.

ASD Social Skills Checklist

ASD Unusual Physical Behavior Checklist

Many individuals with ASD have unusual physical behaviors as well as interests. Here are some of the behaviors and interests that individuals with autism may exhibit:

  • Engaging in stimming, such as rocking back and forth or flapping hands, mostly to calm themselves
  • Walking on toes or being stiff
  • Over- or under-responding to certain sensory inputs
  • Being a picky eater
  • Having unusual reactions towards certain textures
  • Being picky eaters due to disliking foods based on their textures, smells, or flavors
  • Having intense and obsessive interests
  • Exhibiting behaviors or interests that are not appropriate for the individual’s age
  • Strict adherence to routines
  • Getting upset by minor changes, such as in routines
  • Lining up objects or toys instead of playing with them

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ASD Social Skills Checklist

Social skills issues are one of the hallmark symptoms for ASD. These social issues cause serious problems in the individual’s everyday life.

Here are some of the social issues that are considered to be related to ASD:

  • Not responding to name when called by 12 months of age
  • Resisting physical contact
  • Preferring to be or play alone
  • Not understanding personal space
  • Having trouble understanding people’s feelings
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Not sharing interests with other people
  • Not liking being held or hugged
  • Not being comforted by others when in distress
  • Having difficulty talking about feelings
  • Not having interest in the world and people around them
  • Having difficulty in learning interaction with others
  • Not having any interest in other people at all
  • Having difficulty making friends

ASD Checklist for Lesser Known Signs

Sometimes, some of the individuals with autism spectrum disorder exhibit symptoms that are not necessarily problematic in their life. However, these symptoms suggest differences in development.

Here is another simple checklist to see if the individual has these lesser known signs of ASD:

  • Synthesia is a unique response to colors, sound, numbers, or letters. People who have synthesia “see” sounds or “hear” colors for instance. They experience unique responses to certain sensory input.
  • Hyperlexia is the ability to decode written language without actually understanding the meaning of the text.
  • Savant syndrome may be the most commonly spoken about for the individuals with autism. Autistic savants represent a small group of people in the autistic population. These individuals have amazing abilities in various areas, such as doing complex calculations, being really good at playing the piano, memorizing information without difficulty, etc. The movie “Rain Man” depicts an autistic savant.

ASD Checklist for Lesser Known Signs children

These conditions are actually not that uncommon, according to a study from the University of Washington. The study suggests that one in 10 people with autism have these conditions to varying degrees.

DSM-V Checklist for ASD

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5 or DSM-V) of the American Psychiatric Association is the standard criteria to help diagnose autism spectrum disorder at this moment.

According to DSM-5, a child should have persistent deficits in each three areas of social communication and interaction, and at least two of four types of restricted and repetitive behaviors to meet diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder.

The following, referenced from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website , is the checklist composed from DSM-5 to see if the child has autism or not:

  1. Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, as manifested by the following, currently or by history (examples are illustrative, not exhaustive; see text):
  • Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, ranging, for example, from abnormal social approach and failure of normal back-and-forth conversation; to reduced sharing of interests, emotions, or affect; to failure to initiate or respond to social interactions.
  • Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, ranging, for example, from poorly integrated verbal and nonverbal communication; to abnormalities in eye contact and body language or deficits in understanding and use of gestures; to a total lack of facial expressions and nonverbal communication.
  • Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understand relationships, ranging, for example, from difficulties adjusting behavior to suit various social contexts; to difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends; to absence of interest in peers.

Specify current severity:

Severity is based on social communication impairments and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior.

  1. Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities, as manifested by at least two of the following, currently or by history (examples are illustrative, not exhaustive; see text):
  • Stereotyped or repetitive motor movements, use of objects, or speech (e.g., simple motor stereotypes, lining up toys or flipping objects, echolalia, idiosyncratic phrases).
  • Insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines, or ritualized patterns of verbal or nonverbal behavior (e.g., extreme distress at small changes, difficulties with transitions, rigid thinking patterns, greeting rituals, need to take same route or eat same food every day).
  • Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus (e.g., strong attachment to or preoccupation with unusual objects, excessively circumscribed or perseverative interests).
  • Hyper- or hyporeactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in sensory aspects of the environment (e.g. apparent indifference to pain/temperature, adverse response to specific sounds or textures, excessive smelling or touching of objects, visual fascination with lights or movement).

Specify current severity:

Severity is based on social communication impairments and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior.

  1. Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period (but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capacities, or may be masked by learned strategies in later life).
  2. Symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning.
  3. These disturbances are not better explained by intellectual disability (intellectual developmental disorder) or global developmental delay. Intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder frequently co-occur; to make comorbid diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability, social communication should be below that expected for general developmental level.

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Note: Individuals with a well-established DSM-IV diagnosis of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified should be given the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Individuals who have marked deficits in social communication, but whose symptoms do not otherwise meet criteria for autism spectrum disorder, should be evaluated for social (pragmatic) communication disorder.

Specify if:

With or without accompanying intellectual impairmentWith or without accompanying language impairment

Associated with a known medical or genetic condition or environmental factor

(Coding note: Use additional code to identify the associated medical or genetic condition.)

Associated with another neurodevelopmental, mental, or behavioral disorder

(Coding note: Use additional code[s] to identify the associated neurodevelopmental, mental, or behavioral disorder[s].

With catatonia (refer to the criteria for catatonia associated with another mental disorder)

(Coding note: Use additional code 293.89 catatonia associated with autism spectrum disorder to indicate the presence of the comorbid catatonia.)

Autism Checklist for Parents

Parents and caregivers know their child the best. And having a child showing signs of ASD is not easy. However, there are signs that you can catch, even earlier in your child’s life. This way, you will be able to provide the best possible care for your child.

Here is a checklist of some of the signs and symptoms that you can look out for to see if your child’s symptoms match those of ASD.

  • Does your child make eye contact when you are talking to them?
  • Do you think that your child appears to have an unusual memory for details?
  • Does your child strictly adhere to routines?
  • Does your child respond to their name when called?
  • Does your child not seem interested in playing with other children?
  • Does your child initiate interactions with you or others?
  • Does your child not play with toys but lines them up on the floor?
  • Does your child have deep knowledge of what they are interested in?
  • Does your child have a memory for certain details you have not noticed?
  • Does your child look at where you point with your finger?
  • Does your child not understand personal space and rules for polite behavior?
  • Does your child understand instructions?
  • Does your child fall into repetitive behaviors, like doing things over and over again?
  • Does your child get upset when there is a little change in their routine?

If you answered “yes” to a couple of the questions listed above, you may want to consult your pediatrician to see if your child may have ASD.

Autism Checklist for Adults

Some people with autism with “milder” symptoms go through their lives without knowing they have ASD. This may be the result of many things, such as having symptoms that are mild that could not be noticed by others. Not having access to suitable help could also be a factor for lack of diagnosis.

Adults who have not been diagnosed live their life feeling like they have a missing piece, not fitting in their environment. This is actually a result of the neurological disorder they have had.

The following are some of the symptoms of ASD in adults:

  • Taking the same route everyday to work/school
  • Being anxious if there is any changes to this routine
  • Not understanding sarcasm and taking things very literally
  • Not fitting in social situations
  • Having difficulty making friends
  • Having difficulty understanding others’ thoughts or feelings
  • Seeming rude or not interested in others without really meaning to
  • Not adhering to or understanding rules for social interactions
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Being very planned and wanting to know what is coming next
  • Having a very deep interest in certain subjects and being very knowledgeable on it
  • Not liking others touching or getting close to them

Many adults with autism who had not been diagnosed state that they had a sense of relief after they received their diagnosis. Because after diagnosis, they managed to make sense of their feelings and behaviors, and are able to get the help and support they want or need.

Please consult our definitive guide for further information.

Last Updated: 23 December 2022


This article is examined by Clinical Child Psychologist and Ph. D. Researcher Kevser Çakmak, and produced by Otsimo Editorial Team.

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This post does not provide medical advice. See Additional Information.