First Signs logo
First Signs logo
First Signs logo

ASD Video Glossary | In Your State Research | Products

Who We Are | Concerns About a Child | Screening | Diagnosis & Treatment

Close-up of a sad little girl
Glossary of Psychometric Terms

Listed below is a glossary of the psychometric terms we used to define our selection criteria for recommending highly validated screening tools within their respective domains.

Intro | Selection Criteria | Psychometrics | Recommended Tools | References

Psychometric Terms


A standardized screening tool has been tested on hundreds of children from diverse backgrounds geographically and demographically. This ensures that the tool represents the entire population of the U.S., and internationally, in certain cases. Within this category, supporting information that describes the test population, the length of time on the market, and industry peers who have reviewed the results are highlighted.

Back to top


Inter-rater reliability agreement demonstrates consistent results between different examiners. Test-retest reliability shows reliability between tests conducted over short periods of time. Internal consistency exists among test items within a tool to prevent redundancy.

Back to top


Although there are many types of validity, a screening tool recommended by First Signs should test for content validity and concurrent validity. Content validity tests a developmentally appropriate range of skills. Concurrent validity shows how well a screening tool compares to other similar measures on the market.

Back to top

Accuracy or Criterion-based Validity

First Signs regards accuracy as the most critical category for choosing a screening tool, particularly in the areas of sensitivity and specificity. Sensitivity and specificity provide the bottom line measures on whether a tool is highly validated or not. Sensitivity illustrates how often a screening tool accurately identifies children suspected to be at risk for a developmental disorder, such as autism. Specificity illustrates how often a screening tool accurately rules out children not at risk (i.e., those who meet typical developmental milestones).

For a screening tool to receive a recommendation from First Signs, both sensitivity and specificity percentages must exceed 70 to 80%. Ideally, a tool should show sensitivity and specificity in the 90th percentile, though no screens for developmental disorders or autism are available currently in this high percentage range. Additionally, sensitivity should be equal to or greater than specificity. Sacrificing sensitivity for a higher specificity is not in line with our goals, even though higher specificity keeps costs of over-referral down. It is critical that as many children as possible who present developmental delays are screened and referred for diagnosis and intervention. High sensitivity will accomplish this.

Another meaningful accuracy criterion is positive predictive value, which indicates the percentage of children who fail the screen and then receive a confirming diagnosis.

Developmental Milestones

Developmental screening tools must follow appropriate developmental milestones to receive a positive rating from First Signs. Developmental milestones provide important guidelines for tracking healthy development in early childhood.

Back to top

DSM-IV Criteria

The DSM-IV is the abbreviated term for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), published by the American Psychiatric Association, Washington D.C., 1994, which is the main diagnostic reference of mental health professionals in the U.S.

First Signs requires that a screening tool meets key diagnostic criteria from the DSM-IV for the following disorders:

299.00 Autistic Disorder
299.80 Asperger’s Disorder

Our current focus is developmental and behavioral disorders. Please revisit this Web section in the future as we expand our list of disorders and related screening tools.

To view DSM-IV criteria for other Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), also known Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDDs), click here.

Back to top

Diagnostic Criteria for 299.00 Autistic Disorder, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., pp. 70-71) Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 1994.

2001-2014 First Signs, Inc. All rights reserved. | | Please do not copy, post, distribute, or create derivative work without permission from First Signs.
Last update: 03/13/14
SecurityMetrics for PCI Compliance, QSA, IDS, Penetration Testing, Forensics, and Vulnerability Assessment