The Childhood Asperger Syndrome Test (CAST) is a publicly available instrument for screening individuals for Asperger’s syndrome. It is important in the detection and diagnosis of the syndrome, which varies greatly in its severity and symptoms.
The CAST is essentially a questionnaire that is required to be completed independently by school-aged children. The questionnaire – which comprises 37 questions – covers social, cognitive, physical, coping and communication skills.
The exam is intended specifically for mainstream classroom kids who do not have an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. In the event of a high score, CAST-2 is provided for the parents to be completed. Evaluation and comparison of these scores can help with a diagnosis.
As for what constitutes a high score, a study conducted among a group of 1925 children found that a cut-off score of 15 in the test was considered to successfully predict Asperger’s syndrome in 50 percent of the children rated.
It should be noted that the test is meant to serve as a screening instrument, and should not be used in itself for a diagnosis. A formal diagnosis procedure can be carried out by a professional healthcare expert in the field of autism spectrum disorders.
If, following the CAST, your child shows clear signs of Asperger’s syndrome, your doctor may recommend comprehensive assessment by a team of professionals. This will include observing your child and interviewing you about your child’s development.
Social development, communication skills and friendships – aspects which cannot be thoroughly covered in a CAST alone – are evaluated more deeply at this stage. A number of other tests may also be provided which will examine your child’s intellect and academic abilities.
In order to be diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, your child’s symptoms must meet the criteria laid out in Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a manual published by the American Psychiatric Association.
This manual includes symptoms such as a lack of eye to eye contact, unusual body posture or social interaction, difficulty in developing friendships, inflexible attitude, an obsession with one subject and a lack of interest in interactive play.
These symptoms overlap with the symptoms for other problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). There is, therefore, a reasonable risk of a misdiagnosis for Asperger’s syndrome.
The main aim of the Childhood Asperger Syndrome Test (CAST) is to provide a comprehensive and well organized test that is easy to administer, which reduces this risk of misdiagnosis of the syndrome, and increases the chance of early detection.