Posted by: Ticktock | October 2, 2009

Mail-Order Autism Screening?

When I read an article that there was a non-profit charging $200 for a device to screen for autism, I thought I better call in the big guns for help… my mom.  When in doubt, ask an expert, right? My Mom, Chris Ashman, is an administrator for an Early Intervention program at an army hospital in Kentucky. She’s been working with autistic children for decades, and she specializes in speech and language.

The product in question is the LENA Language and Autism Screen, which uses special clothing and a recording device in an attempt to diagnose autism. They claim that their device has a 91% success rate, but they also admit that their product is “not intended and should not be used as a replacement for a professional evaluation…If a parent has strong evidence that their child is autistic, then they should get the child into treatment as soon as possible.

So, why would anyone pay $200 for this device when they can receive FREE autism screening from Early Intervention? I’m also questioning whether their 91% success rate was properly controlled for and/or double blinded; the research was not published in a journal, as far as I know.

Anyway, here’s what the expert (Mom) has to say about it…

There are a number of problems with the Lena Foundation’s Language and Autism Screen.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) takes in a number of specific disorders all related to language and social skills.  The diagnoses are made based on whether or not a child displays  language and social behaviors within a set of criteria.  The decision about whether or not those behaviors are displayed and the degree to which they are displayed, while typically made by experts who have experience in the field, are by their nature always subjective.  There are no definitive criteria for giving the diagnosis of autism and therefore there can be no “objective” way to screen for autism.

ASD is characterized by language and SOCIAL delays.  To analyze a language sample is to look at only part of the picture.  Observation of a child’s affect, sociability, play and adult/peer interactions is a natural part of any in-person screening and a vital part of any screening for autism.

Screening and evaluation for all types of delays is available for free in all states.  Zero to three year old children receive free screening and evaluation in the areas of language, motor, learning, self-help and social skills through early intervention programs available in all states.

For state-specific information go here; the link gives the name and phone number of the Part C Coordinator (head of early intervention) for each state or Google “early intervention.”  Children age three years and older can receive screenings/evaluations through their local school systems.  These services are federally mandated and can be found by calling your local school special education department, typically located with the school system’s administrative offices.  The advantage of taking one of these options is that you save $200 and your child will get continuing intervention services that are free or, in the case of early intervention, at minimal cost.

Thanks Mom!



  1. Awesome, thanks! We have a lot of autistic kids at my school–I’ll share this with their teachers.

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