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Childhood Autism Rating Scale

There is a great deal of assessment tools to help in the diagnosis of autism available. One of them is the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS).

CARS was developed by Eric Schopler, Robert Reichier and Barbara Rochen Renner. Just like any other autism assessment tool, it was made to help in the diagnosis of autism in children. The difference CARS have from other behavior rating tools is that it actually can tell the difference if your child has autism or other developmental delay disorders like mental retardation. It makes it easier for healthcare providers, educators and parents to identify and classify children with autism.

How it Works

CARS works by rating your child’s behavior, characteristics, and abilities against the expected developmental growth of a typical child.

As stated in the CARS, these characteristics are evaluated:

  • Relationship to people
  • Imitation
  • Emotional response
  • Body use
  • Object use
  • Adaptation to change
  • Visual response
  • Listening response
  • Taste-smell-touch response and use
  • Fear and nervousness
  • Verbal communication
  • Non-verbal communication
  • Activity level
  • Level and consistency of intellectual response
  • General impressions

It is done by your primary healthcare provider, a teacher or a parent by rating the child’s behaviors from 1 to 4. 1 being normal for your child’s age, 2 for mildly abnormal, 3 for moderately abnormal and 4 as severely abnormal. Scores range form 15 to 60 with 30 being the cutoff rate for a diagnosis of mild autism. Scores 30-37 indicate mild to moderate autism, while scores between 38 and 60 are characterized as severe autism. Keep in mind that while the Childhood Autism Rating Scale can easily be accessed on the internet, using it to evaluate your child on your own is not advised. It is still best to seek professional help in interpreting the result of your child’s CARS.

It should be remembered that constant and keen observation of your child is important when completing the CARS. The parent or teacher or medical provider should be able to have good understanding of the criteria so that accurate results can also be obtained. If any confusion arises, do not hesitate in any way to clear it up with the person in charge of giving you the test. CARS is normally used with children 2 years of age and above. Although CARS has been used in the diagnosis of adolescents as well, according to a study done by the University of Texas Health Science Center.


Caldwell College. The Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS). Retrieved March 19, 2011, from

20Childhood%20Autism%20Rating%20Scale%20(CARS).ppt#259,2,CARS Described

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