Social Communication Questionnaire

If you have a patient suspected of having Autism Spectrum Disorder, issue the Social Communication Questionnaire to gauge their communication and social skills, then determine what you can do based on the results.

By Matt Olivares on Jul 05, 2024.


Fact Checked by RJ Gumban.

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What is the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ)?

The Social Communication Questionnaire, or SCQ for short, was designed to serve healthcare professionals as a screening tool. It specifically screens potential symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ADS) in patients suspected of having them. It does so by assessing a person's communication and social skills, zooming into specifics like language (if they makeup language or not), eye contact when conversing with a person, and unusual gestures.

The questionnaire has forty items, all of which can be answered with a simple 'Yes' or 'No'. Here are some of the questions that will be asked:

  • Are they now able to talk using short phrases or sentences?
  • Do they ever get their pronouns mixed up?
  • Do they have any mannerisms or odd ways of moving their hands or fingers, such as flapping or moving their fingers in front of their eyes?
  • Do they ever injure themself deliberately, such as biting their arms or banging their heads?
  • Do they have any objects (other than a soft toy or comfort blanket) to carry around?
  • Do they nod their head to indicate yes?
  • Do they shake their head to indicate no?
  • Do they show a normal range of facial expressions?

Social Communication Questionnaire Template

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Social Communication Questionnaire Example

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How to use the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ)

There are two ways for the healthcare professional to administer this questionnaire:

  1. The professional may use this questionnaire and have a child's parents, guardians, caregivers, or teachers sit down for a session. The professional will interview them using the SCQ's questions. This is time-consuming and may not be the best way to issue the questionnaire. However, the benefit of doing this is that the professional may get the interviewees to expound on their answers, providing valuable information that can be used later.
  2. The easiest way to administer this is to simply give copies of the questionnaire to the child's parents, guardians, caregivers, or teachers and have them answer it independently. They can answer this during a face-to-face session, or you can have them take it home if they need time to make more observations. Just make sure to come to an agreement as to when they should return a fully-accomplished questionnaire.

Now, on the part of the informants (we will refer to them as such since they are reporting to you about the child that they're handling), all they need to do is to answer each question with a YES or NO.

Answering the questionnaire shouldn't take too long, especially if they know and are sure of their answers to every question. Though, don't be surprised if it takes them more than ten minutes because some people might think deeply about their answers just to be sure.

How do you score the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ)?

Once you receive a fully-accomplished questionnaire, you need to calculate the scores. Each item can score up to a single point, but the scores differ for each number because they are all framed differently. All in all, the maximum score for this questionnaire is 25.

To help you calculate the scores, please refer to this table:

SCQ Scoring Chart

For the items that show which answers score 1, ideally, you want the opposite answers.

For the items that show which answers score 0, you want those to be the answers.

The cutoff score is 15, which means that the child can have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The higher the score is, the higher the chance that the child has it; however, do note that just because they score 15 or more, that doesn't necessarily mean they have any autism spectrum disorders. That's why the directive is for the child to undergo a comprehensive examination to see if they should be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) example

Now that you know what the Social Communication Questionnaire was designed for, how it can be administered, who gets to answer it, how it is answered, and how to score it, it's time to see what it looks like!

Download this Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) Example (Sample) here:

Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) Example

It even comes with the score table above so you can indicate the total score on the sheet. 

If you like what you see and believe that this is a good tool to have for your work, then feel free to download a copy of the Social Communication Questionnaire PDF via our platform! You can choose to print it if you prefer having physical copies, or you can totally go paperless and have informants answer via PDF files! The template that we have has tickable radio buttons so they can indicate their answers.

When is it best to use the SCQ?

Since the SCQ is a vital resource, the best times to issue this to them will always be the initial appointments, which were scheduled because they want to consult you about a child with any possible autism spectrum disorders that they are handling. It's best to issue this as soon as possible so that a child can be screened immediately.

Screening them as early as possible will give healthcare professionals the chance to develop the necessary plans for early intervention to find ways to help the child with ASD live comfortably despite their condition. They should also consider their families, guardians, teachers, and others so that they know how to help manage the child's ASD to the point that it doesn't become a problem for them and the child.

Now, on the part of the informant, if they decide to take the SCQ home so that they have time to ensure that their observations are correct, they can use the questionnaire at any opportunity to observe the child they are reporting. It can be used at home to assess the child based on the home setting. It can also be used during class when the child interacts with others and does school work. This can also support the use of an educational intervention, along with other forms of treatment planning.

Who can use the Social Communication Questionnaire?

As to who can include this as part of their work, the following healthcare professionals can use the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ):

  • (Child) Psychologists
  • (Child) Psychiatrists
  • (Developmental) Pediatricians
  • Pediatric Neurologists
  • (Child) Therapists
  • (School) Counselors

So long as the healthcare professional has received professional training and is experienced in routinely screening children with suspected Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), they can definitely add this as part of their roster of assessments along with other autism screening tools.

If you are any one of the aforementioned healthcare professionals, please be reminded that the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) is a screening questionnaire. Under no circumstance should it be used to diagnose children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Remember that if the child scores 15 or higher based on the answers of the reporter, the directive is to have the child undergo comprehensive examinations to get an official diagnosis. This includes their symptom severity, symptom levels, if there are any intellectual disabilities present, as well as a full understanding of cognitive developmental history.

It can, however, be used as part of a comprehensive examination. The answers of the reporters will still serve as useful information alongside the results of other assessments. These might include behavioral diagnoses, cognitive development if an early intervention was utilized, the child's behavior, treatment planning, and educational intervention. During this time, the professional will be assessing risk, symptom severity, and communication skills, as well as likely following an autism diagnostic observation schedule.

As for the people who will be engaging with the questionnaire the most, that would be the parents, guardians, teachers, or caregivers of children. They will be the ones reporting on the child and their possible symptoms of ASD. So long as they are related to the child in some way and they are directly responsible for them, they can definitely use this questionnaire to observe them for any signs of ASD.

What are the benefits of using the Social Communication Questionnaire?

It can give a good picture of the child in terms of their social and communication skills

Even though the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) is a YES or NO questionnaire, the answers can give a good picture of the child because the questions are specific to certain things, like how they gesture to others if they can communicate well with others, and if they can join in on the fun with other kids.

It's a trustworthy tool when it comes to assessing a child for potential ASD diagnosis

Since the healthcare professional issuing this questionnaire isn't exactly going to be around the child for a good amount of time, they can't be the ones to fill out the questionnaire. This questionnaire relies on those who spend much time with the child being reported. Because they spend enough time with the child, they will know the child better, especially when exhibiting signs. You will know that the answers come from well-informed people, making this a trustworthy tool for evaluating a child for ASD.

The questionnaire creates opportunities for early interventions and treatment

Since this is normally issued to informants as soon as they consult with professionals about a child's potential ASD, the children can be assessed as soon as possible, and the professional can develop a care plan to be followed that will help the child and the reporters to better manage the ASD so that it doesn't become a problem for the child as they go through the trials and tribulations of growing up. Better management of ASD means a better quality of life for both the child and the people handling them.

It can also support very young children as well as consider information from their primary caregiver reports. When the caregiver is involved, a more complete evaluation can be conducted. A child's entire developmental history can be understood in it's current form and any developmental language disorders can be identified. This can help mental health practitioners in their attempts to compare symptom levels which in turn permits early intervention.

Why use Carepatron for ASD-related work?

The Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) is but one of many assessments that are used to screen and gauge children who potentially have Autism Spectrum Disorder. One of the points that we raised earlier is that, depending on the results of the SCQ scoring, the next thing that you might have to do is to endorse the child for a further and more comprehensive examination. This examination might involve a wide variety of assessments.

Now, let's stipulate that you, the healthcare professional, are more than capable of conducting a comprehensive examination and are certified to make official diagnoses of ASD and other similar disorders. You can visit the Carepatron platform and open a treasure trove of assessments that could help you with your comprehensive examination of a child. We assure you, these will help you cover more ground, leading you to make better-informed decisions, especially when developing a care plan.

Carepatron can also provide you with a nifty storage system to store all your clinical documents in a HIPAA-compliant manner, including fully-accomplished Social Communication Questionnaire. You can even secure them by setting up your informants as the only people who can access them besides you! This also makes it easier for informants to share finished SCQs with you, which, depending on the person, might be better than having to set up an appointment to submit them in person.

Convenience. Accessibility. Security. You get all three with Carepatron.

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Can I use the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) to diagnose kids with ASD?
Can I use the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) to diagnose kids with ASD?

Commonly asked questions

Can I use the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) to diagnose kids with ASD?

No. The SCQ is a screening tool only used to gauge the child for possible ASD. If they score high, the recommended action is to have the child undergo a comprehensive examination (which involves other assessments) and an offical clinical diagnosis. This would need to be a complete diagnostic evaluation or autism diagnostic interview. Other developmental disorders can also be identified utilizing other screening questionnaires.

How long does it take to finish answering the SCQ?

It may take 10-15 minutes since it has forty items. However, don’t be surprised if it takes longer. It might be because the informant gives each item enough thought before answering. If you decide to have them take copies of the SCQ home, it will obviously take more time. Just make sure to agree as to when they should submit it using specific cutoff points if you ever give copies for them to take home.

How old must the child be to be assessed using the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ)?

The child must be aged 4+. If the child is below 4 years of chronological age, then what you can use is the Social Communication Questionnaire for Toddlers, which is a different and separate questionnaire from this one. Using the right age range on questionnaires is important for a more complete evaluation as well as diagnostic validity later on.

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