Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder that requires early diagnoses within the individuals. As a tool for diagnosing the patients in the age between 3 and 22 years, GARS-3 was introduced. GARS-3 represents the third edition of the original scale that was modified in response to the emerging challenges and changed definitions. GARS-3 reflects the latest autism definition and the diagnostic criteria proposed by the APA.
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The scale includes several components, six subscales, and fifty-eight items. The examiner needs to have experience in working with individuals who possess ASD, and the rater has to have prior interaction with the assessed individual. Due to the elements of the test and the scoring technique provided by the specialists, GARS-3 is a useful tool that responds to the AERA standards, including validity, and generates reliable results.
Autism represents a developmental disorder that requires early recognition of symptoms. The specialists recognize the crucial need “to increase early identification and subsequent referral of appropriate children to specialty clinics” (South et al., 2002, p. 593). Various tools were designed in response to this emerging need, and the Gilliam Autism Rating Scale represents one of them. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the third edition of GARS according to the test items and format, the materials, and technology advancements, identify tests’ strengths and weaknesses and provide recommendations.
Test Items and Format
First, it is significant to identify the purpose of the test and look at its format, and included items. GARS-3 serves as a tool to screen for autism disorders in individuals in the age from 3 to 22 (Karren, 2016). The test needs to include different elements for more precise identification, and GARS-3 possesses several subscales and includes various items. In general, GARS-3 is presented as a test kit that has three components, which are the Examiner’s Manual, response forms, and a booklet with the Instructional Objectives for Individuals Who Have Autism (Karren, 2016). Besides, the test itself has six subscales and fifty-eight items (Karren, 2016). In such a way, GARS-3 includes the sections that help to analyze possible implications of autism disorder and provides the suggestions integral for the diagnosed individuals.
Another critical aspect of this specific test is the examination and rating process. It is suggested that the examiner should have training and experience working with those who have autism (Karren, 2016). It is possible to say that the examiner should have a certain level of expertise because they will collect the information from different subscales included in the test and assimilate this data, which requires experience. The raters can be represented by teachers, parents, or others who had contact with an individual being examined with GARS-3 (Karren, 2016). Thus, prior contact with the assessed individual is vital for the raters to come up with the most precise results.
The test can be taken in a couple of forms. The recommended formats for GARS-3 are the questionnaire and the structured interview (Karren, 2016). One of the most significant points of the test is the generation of the Autism Index (AI). The scores from the subscales, such as restricted/repetitive behaviors, social interaction, social communication, and emotional responses, help to come up with AI (Devries, 2016).
The AI determination helps to predict the likelihood of autism spectrum disorder, and the test author identifies that “it is the most reliable and best singular score to identify individuals who have” it (Devries, 2016, p. 53). In such a way, GARS-3 uses the point scoring system. Through scoring the answers to the questionnaire or interview, the examiner, and, further, the rater, can determine the chances of ASD emergence or its presence.
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Taking the GARS-3 test can be beneficial for the caregivers of the individual to recognize the necessity of teaching safety or other skills. For instance, one of the studies deployed GARS-3 and asked the parents to rate it. As a result, the answers of all of the parents indicated a high chance of their children having the disorder (Rossi, Vladescu, Reeve, & Gross, 2017). It is possible to state that GARS-3 can be useful in related settings to identify individuals who require additional care and specific skills. Besides, it is significant to mention that GARS-3 “demonstrated superior internal consistency across various age groups (Karren, 2016, p. 344). It implies that the test produces reliable results and can be trusted by the specialists, which adds value to the scale and its scores.
Fair and Appropriate Materials
The fact that GARS-3 uses probability scores might represent the weakness of the test. However, GARS-3, in comparison to its previous editions, reflects the latest ASD definition by the Autism Society of America and utilizes the most recent diagnostic criteria from the American Psychiatric Association (Meade, Etzkorn, & Zhang, 2018). Therefore, continuous revision of the scale made the third edition a reliable instrument, which can be considered to be one of the most substantial aspects of the test.
Moreover, GARS-3 does not include offensive content or inappropriate materials. Due to several modifications in comparison to the first edition, it considers all possible aspects of the assessment. GARS-3 is an example of a relatively short test, which makes it easy to analyze and score (Karren, 2016). Besides, the test has proved that it can generate valid scores, which makes it “a psychometrically sound” tool (Karren, 2016, p. 345). The GARS-3 possesses numerous strengths, and it is crucial to take into consideration all of the test components and items, which makes the test reliability and validity more trustworthy.
It is possible to say that the fact that GARS-3 has proved to be a valid testing instrument implies that it fulfills the validity standard from the AERA Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing. According to those standards, validity is referred to “as the degree to which evidence and theory support the interpretations of test scores entailed by proposed uses of tests” (“Summary of the standards,” 2003, para. 8). Still, there is the issue of probability score, which implies the presence of potential errors. In such a way, it might be a challenge for GARS-3 to fulfill standard 2.1 of AERA Standards concerning reliability and measures. It is crucial for the examiners, raters, and those, who will utilize the test results, to remember the standard errors.
Use of Technology
Another crucial point in the analysis of every assessment is the rapid integration of technological advancements into different industries, including healthcare and diagnostic tools, which is directly related to GARS-3. Information technology advancements can help to have a standardized procedure of generating the statistics based on the test results, identifying the percentage of those diagnosed with disorder within the specified age group.
Besides, current advancements can be extremely beneficial not for the test itself, but the recommendations provided in the GARS-3 booklet. Robot-assisted therapy, in combination with human interaction, can produce good results. After retaking the GARS-3 test after a period of robot-assisted treatment for those with ASD, the results were significantly improved (“ESD case study,” 2016). Consequently, the combination of continuous GARS-3 scoring with the implementation of technological advancements in therapy can positively influence the situation.
Synthesis of Findings
GARS-3 represents a useful tool that is designed to assess an individual for ASD. The primary strengths of the test include its reflection of the latest autism definition and the most recent APA diagnostic criteria. Moreover, by comprising several components, subscales, and items, the test seeks to examine all possible aspects of the behavioral and communication patterns to have a more precise picture. Another strength of GARS-3 is the fact that it provides a booklet with recommendations, which implies that it aims to give suggestions for the caregivers. In such a way, GARS-3, in comparison to the previous two editions, possesses numerous advantages and serves as a useful instrument to diagnose ASD.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Although GARS-3 possesses substantial strengths, it also carries potential weaknesses in the manner of the scoring and probability aspect. One of the recommendations can be for the Manual included in the test to reconsider the suggestions given to the raters in case they do not find the proper answer. In this way, the test will more likely respond to the AERA validity standard. Another critical issue with GARS-3 is the ethnicity of the normative collected sample participants (Karren, 2016). In the long term, it is essential to make sure that the samples include the representatives of different races and ethnic groups to comply with the validity standard and prove its utility.
Another recommendation for GARS-3 can be the utilization of other components that will help to identify the improvement within the individuals more precisely. GARS-3 has shown “to be sensitive to changes in ASD severity over time”, which implies that further development and improvement can significantly contribute to the changes’ identification (Duffy, Baluch, Welland, & Raman, 2017, p. 344). In conclusion, GARS-3 is an efficient instrument that requires careful analysis and further development to produce more precise results and deliver proper information for specialists working with ASD.
Devries, L. (2016). The role of child characteristics, parental self-efficacy, and social support on parental stress in mothers and fathers of children with autism spectrum disorders. Web.
Duffy, L., Baluch, B., Welland, S., & Raman, E. (2017). Effects of physical activity on debilitating behaviours in 13-to 20-year-old males with severe autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation, 13(3), 340-347.
Karren, B. C. (2017). A test review: Gilliam, JE (2014). Gilliam Autism Rating Scale–Third Edition (GARS-3). Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment 35(3), 342-346.
Meade, W. W., Etzkorn, L., & Zhang, H. (2018). The missing element: A discussion of autism spectrum disorders in computer science. Web.
Rossi, M. R., Vladescu, J. C., Reeve, K. F., & Gross, A. C. (2017). Teaching safety responding to children with autism spectrum disorder. Education and Treatment of Children, 40(2), 187-208.
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South, M., Williams, B. J., McMahon, W. M., Owley, T., Filipek, P. A., Shernoff, E.,… & Ozonoff, S. (2002). Utility of the Gilliam Autism Rating Scale in research and clinical populations. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 32(6), 593-599.