Date Presented 04/20/2023

This study examines the convergent validity of a novel observational measure of sensory, communicative, and motor skills in infants against existing measures. Results suggest positive findings, but the novel tool requires further validation studies.

Primary Author and Speaker: Cindy Teow

Contributing Authors: Emily Campi, Elizabeth Choi, Allison Q. Phillips, Grace T. Baranek

Early differences in social communication (SC) and sensory regulation (SR) precede a developmental cascade leading to later autism (AUT) symptoms (Baranek et al., 2018; Nowell et al., 2020). AUT screening drives early diagnosis and intervention, which are vital for improving outcomes (Hyman et al., 2020). Occupational therapists (OTs) are well positioned in early AUT screening (Crabtree & Demchick, 2018) due to the time spent with families and OTs’ unique knowledge of SR. This study examines the utility of a novel observational tool (the Behavioral Battery; BB) in detecting early signs of AUT in SR, SC, and motor (MOT) areas. We expect the BB to be moderately correlated with related measures, showing adequate convergent validity. Negative correlations with MOT and SC measures are expected, as higher scores on the BB show severity. We used a cross-sectional correlational design. 6-16-month-olds (n=34) were recruited from the community for a larger study. We calculated bivariate Spearman correlations, including comparisons between BB SR with Sensory Experiences Questionnaire version 2.1, BB gestures and vocalizations with MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory (CDI), and BB MOT with Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales-Third Edition MOT subscales. All correlations were in the direction hypothesized. Gestures on the BB and CDI were moderately correlated (r=-.60 to -.71). Correlations on sensory and motor constructs were lower than predicted, but statistically significant. Findings suggest convergent validity between the BB and parent-report measures is well supported for SC, but less so for MOT and SR constructs. Future research will study the extent to which differences in assessment format (i.e. examiner’s observations versus parent-report) could have led to these findings. Future studies should include observational tools for convergent validity. This is a first step toward validating the BB for OTs to observe early AUT signs for screening purposes.


Baranek, G. T., Woynaroski, T. G., Nowell, S., Turner-Brown, L., DuBay, M., Crais, E. R., & Watson, L. R. (2018). Cascading effects of attention disengagement and sensory seeking on social symptoms in a community sample of infants at-risk for a future diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 29, 30-40. j.dcn.2017.08.006

Crabtree, L. & Demchick, B. (2018). Fact Sheet: Occupational Therapy’s Role with Autism. American Occupational Therapy Association.

Hyman, S. L., Levy, S. E., Myers, S. M., & COUNCIL ON CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES, SECTION ON DEVELOPMENTAL AND BEHAVIORAL PEDIATRICS (2020). Identification, evaluation, and management of children with autism spectrum disorder. Pediatrics, 145(1), e20193447.

Nowell, S. W., Watson, L. R., Crais, E. R., Baranek, G. T., Faldowski, R. A., & Turner-Brown, L. (2020). Joint attention and sensory-regulatory features at 13 and 22 months as predictors of preschool language and social-communication outcomes. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research : JSLHR, 63(9), 3100–3116.