According to research, about a fourth of children with autism remain undiagnosed. Although this number is slightly lower in adults, it’s still a cause for concern. This prompts the need for an effective self-diagnostic tool. And that’s where Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) comes in.
Read on to learn more about the Autism Spectrum Quotient.
What Is the Autism Spectrum Quotient?
The Autism Spectrum Quotient is a self-administered, 50-item questionnaire used to measure autistic traits in adults aged 16 years and older whose IQs are within the normal range (IQ>=80). It is important to note that the AQ test is not a diagnostic tool for autism. Rather, the test is a means to provide a quantitative measure of autistic traits in people with autism.
The AQ test is largely based on the observation that people with autism often exhibit certain behaviors that differ from those of neurotypical (non-autistic) people. These behaviors primarily emanate from how they perceive the world and interact with people around them.
To assess these unique traits effectively, the test consists of 50 questions, which are grouped into five different domains. They consist of 10 questions, each focusing on a specific autistic trait. Here’s what the test measures.
AQ Measures Five Symptom Clusters
The AQ test measures five symptom clusters thought to be related to autism. These symptom clusters are essential in understanding the strength-and-weakness profiles of people with autism. The symptom clusters include:
- Social skills
- Attention to detail
- Attention switching
The social skills cluster assesses an individual’s ability to interact with others in a social setting. Likewise, the communication cluster evaluates the ability to communicate with others effectively, including the ability to start and carry on a conversation.
Similarly, the attention to detail cluster evaluates an individual’s ability to pay attention to small details when completing a task. Meanwhile, the attention-switching cluster assesses an individual’s ability to switch between tasks effortlessly and effectively. And the imagination cluster assesses the ability to think creatively.
By compiling the results of the five symptom clusters, the AQ test can effectively provide a quantitative measure of autistic traits in people with autism.
Who Invented the AQ?
The Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) was developed in 2001 by Simon Baron-Cohen, an autism researcher and professor of developmental psychopathology, and his colleagues at the University of Cambridge.
Initially, the researchers administered the test to adults with Asperger’s Syndrome and high-functioning autism as well as a randomly selected group of neurotypical people from the community to use as a control.
Psychometric analysis of the test subjects proved the test effective, and an initial cut-off score of 32+ was set to distinguish the autistic sample from the general population control sample. However, further developments in the test determined 29+ as the optimal cut-off score.
For added effectiveness, the test also considered other differentiators like gender, where women with autism were found to have higher test scores. They had an average score of 38.1, compared to the men’s 35.1.
The AQ test is designed to measure traits of autism in adults. The 50-question, self-administered questionnaire asks respondents how much each statement applies to them on a scale of 1 to 4. The choices for each statement look much like this:
- Definitely agree
- Slightly agree
- Slightly disagree
- Definitely disagree
To take the AQ test, follow these steps.
- Obtain a copy of the test. You can do this online or physically from a medical professional.
- Read the questions carefully and choose the response that best reflects how you feel or act in the situation in question.
- After completing the test, tally your results by adding a point for every “definitely agree” or “slightly agree” response.
- You can now compare your results to the scoring guidelines provided with the test. In general, scores of 32 or higher are considered an indication of autism traits.
When taking the test, it is important to note that it makes no difference whether you choose ‘definitely’ or ‘slightly.’ Therefore, try treating each statement as a binary choice and agree or disagree.
You should also note that the AQ test is not a diagnostic tool. And therefore, it shouldn’t be used to diagnose autism. The test is only intended to provide an indication of autism traits. So, even if you get a high score (above 32), you should consult a qualified healthcare professional for a more thorough evaluation.
Being a 50-question test with a 1-mark maximum score per statement, the AQ test has a scoring range of 0 to 50, with a threshold score of 26. This means that a score of 26 or higher may be an indication of autism traits, while a lower score proves the contrary.
Most neurotypical males score an average of 17. While their female counterparts get an average of 15, with 73% of people with autism scoring 32 or higher.
It is important to note that the test is not conclusive. In addition to the test, healthcare professionals consider a myriad of other factors when evaluating an individual for autistic traits. These factors include developmental history, behavior, and cognitive abilities.
This basically means that even if you score below 32 on the test, it does not necessarily mean that you don’t have autism. It is possible that you may still exhibit some ASD traits. But they may not be severe enough to be reflected in your AQ score.
The Bottom Line
The autism spectrum quotient test has proven to be an effective indicator of autism traits in the general population. There are three variations of the test, each suited to a specific age group (adults, teenagers, and children).
However, despite its effectiveness, the AQ test is not a diagnostic tool and shouldn’t be used to provide a definitive diagnosis. Therefore, if you are concerned that you, or a loved one, has autistic traits, it is advisable to consult with a qualified healthcare professional for a proper evaluation.
If you are ready to work with the best ABA therapy provider in New York, New Jersey or Indiana, give us a call at (732) 402-0297. Our dedicated team is ready to help and we will treat you like family.
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