There has been a notable increase in the prevalence rates of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) over the last decade. Currently, the American Centre for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in every 68 children is diagnosed with ASD. The average age of diagnosis ranges from 3.1 to 5.7 years. However, the literature indicates that low socio-economic-status (SES) countries, such as South Africa could have higher prevalence rates and a later average age of diagnosis. This is due to the limited and strained resources on social and governmental levels. This is of great concern as research indicates that early diagnosis and intervention of learners with ASD leads to improved overall functioning. South Africa is not equipped to deal with services required to effectively screen and diagnose learners for ASD. The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) is available in South Africa as a low cost and easy to administer screening tool for ASD. Unfortunately, it can only screen for ASD in learners up to the age of 5. No other similar low cost screening tool is available for use in South Africa which will be able to screen older learners. With the reality of a later age of diagnosis in South Africa, it is therefore pivotal to develop such a screening tool. This study set out to develop and pilot test the Autism Spectrum Disorder Screening Questionnaire (ASDSQ). The ASDSQ is a screening questionnaire that can be filled out by the parents or guardians of learners aged 6 to 9. It is low in cost and easy to administer, score and understand. It will assist in identifying learners that are at risk for an ASD diagnosis. This will ensure that learners who are identified as at risk for an ASD diagnosis can be referred to the correct professionals for ASD diagnostic tests. The current version of the ASDSQ (version three) is a 38 item, yes-no, questionnaire. In this pilot study the ASDSQ was able to successfully distinguish between learners with an ASD diagnosis and learners without an ASD diagnosis. Findings furthermore indicated that the ASDSQ was able to differentiate between the control and experimental group when compared to the results of the M-CHAT on the same sample. The ASDSQ shows great promise as a screening tool for ASD in South Africa. With further development, the ASDSQ could become an established level one screening questionnaire for ASD in South Africa. Future research on the ASDSQ should focus on validating, norming, and standardizing the questionnaire for use in the South African context.
Mini Dissertation (MA)--University of Pretoria, 2017.