Uses and Limitations of the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) – For Parents & Clinical Use

The Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) is designed to measure symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and can be completed by parents at home. There are 40 questions requiring yes/no responses and the evaluation takes less than ten minutes to administer. An administrator can score the form in less than five minutes.

Form Options

WPS offers two forms for the SCQ. Parents can evaluate communication skills and social functioning in children with regard to the child’s developmental history over a lifetime using the Lifetime AutoScore Form. The results of this form can be used as a reference for a more comprehensive workup.

The Current AutoScore Form evaluates a child’s behavior during the past three months, helping administrators to understand everyday living experiences and evaluate short- or long-term treatment and educational plans.

Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised

The Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) is a ninety-three item interview that takes between 1 ½ and 2 ½ hours to complete. It gives an authoritative account of a child’s developmental history. The SCQ was designed as a companion screening for items on the ADI-R that have discriminative diagnostic validity.

While the SCQ is shorter, it is parallel to the more extended ADI-R interview and is suitable for similar populations. The principal caregiver is best suited to complete the SCQ assessment because they are the most familiar with the developmental and behavioral history of the child.

Main Uses

The SCQ has three primary uses. First, it can identify children who need a more comprehensive clinical assessment for a possible ASD diagnosis, education, and treatment. Second, the SCQ can be used to compare overall levels of ASD symptoms on a group basis across different samples. Third, it can be used to assess the severity of symptoms of ASD over time.

Limitations

While the ADI-R suggests the applicability of the instrument in ages as young as two years, the SCQ has not been tested systematically, meaning that use in ages two years up to three years, eleven months should be undertaken with appropriate caution.

While a parent or caregiver can complete the forms, an individual with professional training in the treatment of ASD should supervise the development of interpretations based on the results of the screening. Parents should never try to use the SCQ to determine a course of treatment without professional assistance.

As with all clinical screenings, there is a certain probability of false negatives in the SCQ. However, while this is a limitation of the SCQ, it is a limitation share by most other clinical assessments, and therefore should be expected.

The SCQ is not suitable for individual diagnosis by itself. Diagnosis requires information on onset, course, and context specificity. Caregiver reports need to be checked against direct clinical observation, and items on the SCQ rely on respondent judgments rather than investigator concepts. For these reasons, the SCQ is not suitable for providing detailed descriptions of patterns of behavior in individuals.

Both of the SCQ forms, as well as other forms and assessments, are available at WPS for parent and clinical use.