Roula Choueiri, MD University of Massachusetts
The RITA-T is a new Level 2 screening tests: it is to be administered on young children identified at risk for ASD, or who scored positive on a Level 1 screening test, or providers are worried about.
The RITA-T includes nine semi-structured play-based presses that examine constructs that have been described to be delayed in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Each play-based press looks at the integration of 1 or 2 constructs, including: joint attention (JA), visual problem solving (cog) human agency (HA) that is the precursor for the Theory of Mind, social awareness (SA), communication, and self-awareness.
Three items are also related to the developmental level of the child and coded C for cognition. Each press is coded and scored depending on the child’s response: the lower the score, the more typical the response. A total score is then calculated by adding the 9 individual presses scores.
Roula Choueiri, MD is a Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Pediatrician with expertise in Autism. She specializes in the early screening and identification of Autism and Neurodevelopmental disorders. She has completed her medical school, pediatrics and child neurology trainings at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, before moving to Boston where she completed a Pediatric Residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and a Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Fellowship at Children's Hospital in Boston.
Dr. Choueiri has been developing and testing the RITA-T for the last 7 years. She initially developed it with Dr. Sheldon Wagner, Child Psychologist, and they published preliminary data in 2015 (Article in the articles and Resources section). She has been developing it, expanding it and collaborating with local and international groups for the further testing and validation of the RITA-T in different clinical settings, and studying and its integration in different systems to improve the triaging of referred toddlers, the early detection of autism and access. She is also interested in cultural factors that affect the screening of autism, and she has co-authored educational material for healthcare providers on considering culture in autism screening.
The RITA-T scoring sheet and manual is being translated to different languages and being validated as well in different cultural settings. Dr. Choueiri is currently the CDC (Center for Disease Control) Act Early Campaign Ambassador to MA and she has organized local workshops to early childhood providers for improved developmental and autism screening. She is the division director for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at UMass Memorial Children's Hospital.
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