There is a growing need for validated tools to screen children at risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). The Neurobehavioral Screening Tool (NST) is one of several promising screening measures for FASD, though further evidence is needed to establish the tool’s psychometric utility.
To assess the predictive accuracy of the NST among children with an FASD diagnosis, with prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) but no FASD diagnosis, and typically developing controls.
The NST was completed by caregivers of children ages 6 to 17, including 48 with FASD, 22 with PAE, and 32 typically developing non-exposed controls. Predictive accuracy coefficients were calculated using Nash et al. (2006) criteria, and compared against controls. An alternative scoring scheme was also investigated to determine optimum referral thresholds using item-level total scores.
The NST yielded 62.5% sensitivity for participants with FASD and 50% for PAE. Specificity values were 100% with no typically developing control scoring positive. Within the FASD group there was a trend for higher sensitivity among adolescents aged 12 to17 (70.8%) compared with children aged 6 to 11 years (54.2%), p = 0.23.
The findings support a growing body of literature evidencing psychometric promise for the clinical utility of the NST as an FASD screening tool, though further research on possible age-effects is warranted. The availability of a validated clinical screening tool for FASD, such as the NST, would aid in accurately screening a large number of children and lead to a timelier diagnostic referral.
Key Words: Neurobehavioral screening tool, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, prenatal alcohol exposure, screening