Early Screening: Ode to the MCHAT

Dr. Som
The Pensive Pediatrician

Editors’ Note: Some years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that childhood primary care physicians –family practice and pediatricians — screen for autism in well-child visits, as well as screening for other developmental delays. One autism screening tool is the M-CHAT, or Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, which is validated for children between 16 and 30 months of age.

The following is Dr. Som’s plea to her fellow primary care physicians to use the M-CHAT regularly.

Ode to the M-CHAT

Parents with toddlers we know you can read.
23 questions is all that we need.

Answer yes, answer no, is all that you do–
Just five short minutes when your child is two.

It need not be English. Try Hebrew, Chinese,
Turkish, Polish, perhaps Japanese.

What’s up, doc? You cannot? No, not today?
No copier. No pens. Insurance won’t pay?

But Adam’s autistic, and his mom doesn’t know.
Neither will you. You big dumb bozo!

He does not point nor respond to his name.
Notice his gaze. That’s why his mom came!

It’s online and it’s free, so don’t make a fuss–
Give it out and score it. You can and you must.

Discover it now, and improve his outcome.
Why be stupid or lazy? This boy needs a chum!

Diabetes or cancer — you’d be ordering tests.
Delayed development? No biggie you guess!

In jail, or the hospital, on risperdone–
Bloated and fat, and feeling alone.

Don’t let that happen. Rescue him now!
Refer and be kind. Don’t furrow your brow.

He’s funny and strange — like you and like me.
He’s a bit of a puzzle. Help find the key.

One authorized site for online use of the M-CHAT is http://www.firstsigns.org/
A version of this post was previously published at The Pensive Pediatrician