The Childhood Autism Rating Scale, or CARS, helps distinguish the level of support an individual will require.
In this blog, we will discuss:
- What is the Childhood Autism Rating Scale?
- How to score the Childhood Autism Rating Scale
- What is the age range for the Child Autism Rating Scale?
- Is there such a thing as a good score for the Child Autism Rating Scale?
- What do levels of autism look like?
What Is the Childhood Autism Rating Scale?
The Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) is a clinical survey that helps professionals diagnose or assess the level of autism in a child. It’s used from both a clinical and research standpoint to distinguish between those with autism versus those without accurately. The scale indicates social communication, emotional reactivity, stereotyped behaviors, and sensory sensitivities.
As abnormalcy in early developmental milestones is the first indicator of autism, this survey is conducted at a young age- as opposed to adulthood. This scale has been fine-tuned for decades to increase accuracy, and the original CARS was developed on over 1600 children.
How To Score the Childhood Autism Rating Scale?
Scores collected through the Childhood Autism Rating Scale can range from 15 to 60- and the higher the score, the more severe someone experiences a level of autism. Scores less than 30 indicate that one most likely does not have autism. This is considered to be the “cutoff score.” Scores between 30-36.5 indicate that one has mild to moderate autism. Scores between 37-60 suggest that one has severe autism.
Fourteen domains assess behaviors correlated to autism, with a scale of 1-4 to gauge the severity of an experience. 4 indicates the highest level of impairment, while 1 is a mild experience. There’s a 15th domain that assesses general impressions of autism. The assessment survey is about 10 minutes long and is conducted by neuropsychologists.
What Is the Age Range for the Child Autism Rating Scale?
Based on any age or IQ level, a child can be tested. Children younger than six years of age with an IQ of 79 (and significant communication impairments) can qualify for a CARS-ST test- also known as the CARS standard form. A child older than six with an IQ of 80 or higher (and fluent communication) will be tested for CARS-HF- a high-functioning autism survey.
Children as young as two have been tested, but this can cause scores to be inaccurate. Because this survey is highly sensitive, it can cause children to be overly diagnosed. 61.5% of non-autistic children were diagnosed correctly- meaning approximately 39.5% were misdiagnosed with autism.
Is There Such a Thing as a Good Score for the Child Autism Rating Scale?
When testing with the CARS, there’s no such thing as a good score. The score that you receive is only meant to categorize you into a level of autism- not define you! No score is better than another; it’s just a simple sign of classification. No interpretation of the scale numbers will be considered good or bad!
What Do Levels of Autism Look Like?
There are three levels of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders acknowledges. These levels specify the degree to which one exhibits independence or social-emotional skills. The levels are as follows:
- Level One. Requires loose support but may struggle with certain social skills. With more concrete communication, people at level one typically have higher functioning independent skills.
- Level Two. Repetitive behaviors alongside verbal and nonverbal communication difficulties. Substantial support is required.
- Level Three. Individuals need help with all social, communication, and independence skills. High distress can be in changing situations or abnormalcy, so this level requires substantial support.
Children with autism have diverse challenges, so while these three levels outline a category they may fall under, they don’t fully address each unique situation. This is why talking to a specialist helps you solidify a personalized therapy route for your child.