Online Tests for Autism

Pros and Cons

Mother doing schoolwork with two sons in front of a computer at the dining table

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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a lifelong developmental disorder with symptoms ranging from relatively mild to extreme. People with severe symptoms are usually diagnosed at a very young age—and most people with moderate symptoms learn of their diagnosis in childhood.

But what if you're not sure that symptoms in a child or adult are really signs of autism? When that's the case, you may want to try out one of the many available online diagnostic tests and quizzes.

Learn about online options and the research behind them. Then find out what to do if it turns out you may, indeed, be coping with symptoms of autism spectrum disorder.

Why Online Tests Have Become Popular

Autism is a developmental disorder that has no established biological markers. As a result, it can only be diagnosed through observation and interviews. Thus, while it may not be possible to receive a definitive autism diagnosis without the involvement of a professional practitioner, it is possible to observe behaviors and answer interview questions online.

Over the course of the past several years, major researchers and institutions have developed online screening tools based on observations by parents or adults who suspect autism in their children or in themselves.

Recently, with the advent of broadband streaming and the fast growth of telemedicine (remote medical care as a result of COVID-19), even professional diagnosticians and therapists are finding online testing, observation, and treatment to be useful. In fact, therapists working with and for schools are now actually required, in many cases, to provide remote therapies.

What Online Tests Can Tell You

Online screening tools can't substitute for a full diagnostic team, but they can suggest that further testing and observation would be a good idea. They can also help provide a better understanding of the symptoms of autism. Use online tests to:

  • Quickly get a clearer understanding of what autism symptoms look like
  • Answer questions to help you determine whether there are red flags for autism
  • Decide whether to seek professional autism screening and evaluation

Of course, it's perfectly possible to take a poorly constructed online quiz and find yourself worried unnecessarily. That's why it's best to select from one of the options listed in this article or research any other test carefully to ensure it's been properly created.

Online Options

Not all online tools are created equal. While some are carefully researched, others were developed by nonexperts based on diagnostic criteria. Still others, while online, are actually closer to being a form of telemedicine and involve working by video with a qualified practitioner.

Online Quizzes for Adults

If you're an adult who wonders whether your challenges are the result of high-functioning autism, you're not alone. That's why several organizations have developed online screening tools to help you determine whether you could be on the autism spectrum, including:

  • The Adult Repetitive Behavior Questionnaire (RBQ-2) was developed by researchers in Wales and is the best-researched tool of its kind. It can be downloaded from the University of Cardiff website. Note that the researchers use the survey results to further their studies of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis. A shorter quiz based on this research can be found at the Exceptional Individuals website.
  • The Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) Test was developed by well-known researcher Simon Baron-Cohen at the University of Cambridge in England. This test has been researched and found to be moderately accurate, even in its short 12-question version. It is available online in a variety of locations, including Wired Magazine.
  • PsychCentral has developed a short online quiz to provide some insight into whether you might have autistic traits. It's a quick, easy screening tool that in no way replaces an expert's diagnosis.

Online Tests and Video Observations for Infants and Children

Most of the time, autism is diagnosed in children under the age of 3. Thus, most online tests, quizzes, and observations are designed for young children—and, of course, must be filled out by their parents.

It's important to remember that parent observations may be biased or simply incorrect. Therefore, while parental input is very important, it cannot substitute for professional observation of the child.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers direct access to many of the most common tools used to diagnose young children. The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers-R/F (M-CHAT-R/F) is the gold standard of parent interview questionnaires. It's a 20-item parent-completed checklist with yes/no questions about early signs of ASD.

If the M-CHAT seems to confirm your concerns, you can also peruse other related tests, such as the Survey of Well-Being of Young Children (SWYC): Parent's Observations of Social Interactions (POSI), Screening Tool for Autism in Toddlers and Young Children (STAT), and Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ).

Dr. Michelle Turner at Cambridge University developed the Repetitive Behaviour Questionnaire (RBQ), a 33-item parent questionnaire designed to measure children's repetitive behaviors. Like the adult RBQ listed above, it's a validated online tool for identifying one common sign of autism: repetitive behaviors. You can find links to all the RBQ tests online.

The prestigious MIND Institute at the University of California at Davis has developed an Online Developmental Screening Study. The project involves multiple video-based doctor visits and observations and pays participants to be part of the study.

Why Positive Results May Be Incorrect

If one or more online tests suggests autism, it's important to remember that your findings may not be correct.

While it is possible to complete quizzes and tests at home, nonexperts may answer incorrectly because they don't have the knowledge or experience to know what the normal range of child development or adult behavior looks like.

In addition, many disorders have symptoms similar to particular aspects of autism. For example:

  • A child may not turn to you when you speak or respond to their name because they are hard of hearing.
  • There are many reasons children may be late talkers; these include hearing issues, apraxia of speech, and other developmental disorders.
  • Many people have sensory dysfunction (overreacting or underreacting to light, sound, pain, etc.) without having autism.
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and several other developmental disorders look quite similar to high-functioning autism; it can be hard for a nonexpert to tell the difference in some cases.
  • Very high functioning individuals may test negative for autism in online tests but still be diagnosable by experts.

What to Do if the Results Are Positive

The best reason to take an online autism test is to screen for possible traits of autism. Once you've completed the screening and have found that autism is a possibility, it's time to take the next step.

If you have an infant or child showing signs of autism, start with a trip to the pediatrician and ask for an autism evaluation. If the pediatrician can't or won't provide an evaluation, consider reaching out to a local children's hospital or autism clinic.

Ideally, your child will be evaluated by a team that includes a developmental pediatrician or neurologist, a speech therapist, and an occupational therapist.

If you are an adult and believe you may have autism, you have options. Most adults with undiagnosed autism are high functioning, and you may have found ways to compensate for or taken advantage of your autistic symptoms.

If you are struggling, however, you may wish to find a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker who has specific experience working with adults on the spectrum. You may also want an official diagnosis if you are having trouble holding down a job and want to apply for Social Security as a disabled individual.

While you wait for an appointment or for test results, you can take action. There is a variety of tools and parent-friendly therapies available for parents who want to help their child with autism build skills. Some of these include Floortime and SCERTS. You may also want to reach out locally to your school district and to parent support groups.

If you are an adult with autism, you may want to read some of the many books, blogs, or websites written from the perspective of adults on the spectrum. You may also want to explore local or online autism support groups run by people on the autism spectrum.

Finally, you may wish to join groups like GRASP that were created by adults with autism to serve the needs of others in the autism community.

Summary

Many online screening tests are available for adults and children who might have autism. They vary in how much research has gone into them and whether they have been validated. The results may be helpful but are not always definitive. It is important to follow up with a professional evaluation, which you will need  for a diagnosis to apply for certain programs and services.

A Word From Verywell

Online tests are a useful tool, but they are by no means a substitute for a formal autism diagnosis. Even online tests like the M-CHAT have their limitations, and results can be misleading.

If after taking these tests you discover that you or your child could have autism, it's vital to seek an expert opinion. Not only can an expert help you determine whether your online findings are accurate, but they can also provide an official diagnosis.

Only an official diagnosis can open the doors to special education, behavioral health services, Social Security funds, early intervention therapies, and other critically important services and programs for both children and adults.

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4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Screening and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder for healthcare providers. Updated February 11, 2020.

  2. Barrett SL, Uljarević, M, Baker EK, et al. The Adult Repetitive Behaviours Questionnaire-2 (RBQ-2A): A self-report measure of restricted and repetitive behavioursJ Autism Dev Disord. 2015;45(11):3680-3692. doi:10.1007/s10803-015-2514-6

  3. Lundqvist LO, Lindner H. Is the Autism-Spectrum Quotient a valid measure of traits associated with the autism spectrum? A Rasch validation in adults with and without autism spectrum disordersJ Autism Dev Disord. 2017;47(7):2080-2091. doi:10.1007/s10803-017-3128-y

  4. Honey E, McConachie H, Turner M, Rodgers J. Validation of the Repetitive Behaviour Questionnaire for use with children with autism spectrum disorderResearch in Autism Spectrum Disorders. 2012;6(1):355-364. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2011.06.009