The Autism Impact Measure: The New Gold Standard

Autism Impact Measure

Tools, measures, and assessments for diagnosing what is now called Autism Spectrum Disorder have been around since the early 1960s when treatment plans began to take shape.

ASD first appeared as ‘Infant Autism’ in 1980 in the DSM III. Since then, the name, markers, and symptoms for autism have changed in almost every version of the DSM up until the umbrella term Autism Spectrum Disorder was used. Through the years, many types of tools have been created to diagnose cases of ASD, and many adhered to the definition and symptoms described in the current version of the DSM (III through V). 

Currently, the DSM V has made major changes to how autism is seen in the clinical world, and the diagnosing process has widened the spectrum. Previously, the two ‘gold standards’ of diagnosing tools were the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), and the Autism Diagnostic Interview Revised (ADI-R). While these two still hold the spots for top diagnostic tools, they have many limitations that call for a revision of assessments. 

The ADOS and ADI-R, while reliable in diagnosing cases, are not well suited to assess and track the outcome measures of treatments, meaning that they are unable to assess chances in core symptoms of ASD over time. These tools focus on placing an individual onto the spectrum through ‘categorical caseness’, which leaves no room for changes in core symptom expression during and after treatments. Luckily, there is a new player in town.

In 2013, Kanne and his team created a new measure for assessing and diagnosing cases of ASD while focusing on a “finer gradation of symptom expression both short and long term”. The Autism Impact Measure, or AIM, targets the sensitivity of changes in core ASD symptoms during and after treatment sessions. The assessment itself is a 24 item questionnaire which looks at frequency and intensity of behaviours and symptoms of the individual. It has proven to have high reliability and validity when measured by professionals in the field.

This measure would be issued by a behavioral therapist during a regular session with the individual. It is used with a 2 week recall period, meaning that the initial measure is followed up two weeks after with a second assessment. Using this assessment tool in regular treatment settings allows for the individual’s immediate team to watch as their symptoms change in a natural fluid way, rather than have the individual placed on a scale and have them stagnate there. This means that if the the ‘gold standard’ becomes the Autism Impact Measure, individuals would have a constantly updated version of their symptoms on file, as well as a completely tailored treatment plan that would help them thrive.

By Sydney Chasty, Carleton University