The Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) is a common clinical assessment used to determine if a child falls on the autism spectrum. When we had Alanna initially diagnosed at 22 months, this instrument was used (along with many others) to show she had autistic disorder.
Looking back at the clinician's rating (and ours - both were on the psychological assessment), we rated Alanna 47. The highest possible score is 60, and severe autism is anything 37 or higher.
We recently did the CARS together and Alanna's score dropped from 47 (our original score) to 37. This means Alanna (according to us - we are not clinicians) is close to dropping from "severe" to "mild/moderate" (she needs one more 1/2 point to drop to moderate). We were being conservative so I am pretty confident a psychologist observing Alanna would probably rate in a similar way. Here's the cool thing... the cut off score is 30. If Alanna were to drop another 8 points in the next couple of years, she would technically be rated as "not having autism" on this scale.
Now - it's just one scale. Other scales could still rate Alanna has having autism even if the CARS does not. The CARS also doesn't speak at all to her intellectual or adaptive functioning. She could still have serious delays even falling off the spectrum. Still, it is very positive to see that she appears "less autistic" than she used to. Now, don't get me wrong - you would notice right away something is "off" if you met her. But take it from me - she is much less autistic than a year ago. She has come so much out of her shell. In particular (from the CARS) we see she:
- Is better at relating to people.
- Has become much better at imitating.
- Has improved play skills - she knows how to play with some toys.
- Can cope with changes in her environment.
- Is much less fearful and anxious.
- Has better non-verbal communication.
It is nice to see this laid out in an assessment - it confirms what we thought but makes us be a little more critical of our opinions. Sometimes the parents can be too optimistic.