Assessing the accuracy of the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers: a systematic review and meta-analysis Academic Article uri icon

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  • AIM: The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) could be appropriate for universal screening for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at 18 months and 24 months. Validation studies, however, reported differences in psychometric properties across sample populations. This meta-analysis summarized its accuracy measures and quantified their change in relation to patient and study characteristics. METHOD: Four electronic databases (MEDLINE, PsycINFO, CINAHL, and Embase) were searched to identify articles published between January 2001 and May 2016. Bayesian regression models pooled study-specific measures. Meta-regressions covariates were age at screening, study design, and proportion of males. RESULTS: On the basis of the 13 studies included, the pooled sensitivity was 0.83 (95% credible interval [CI] 0.75-0.90), specificity was 0.51 (95% CI 0.41-0.61), and positive predictive value was 0.53 (95% CI 0.43-0.63) in high-risk children and 0.06 (95% CI <0.01-0.14) in low-risk children. Sensitivity was higher for screening at 30 months compared with 24 months. INTERPRETATION: Findings indicate that the M-CHAT performs with low to moderate accuracy in identifying ASD among children with developmental concerns, but there was a lack of evidence on its performance in low-risk children or at age 18 months. Clinicians should account for a child's age and presence of developmental concern when interpreting their M-CHAT score. WHAT THIS PAPER ADDS: The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) performs with low-to-moderate accuracy in children with developmental concerns. There is limited evidence supporting its use at 18 months or in low-risk children.


  • Yuen, Tracy
  • Penner, Melanie
  • Carter, Melissa T
  • Szatmari, Peter
  • Ungar, Wendy J

publication date

  • November 2018