Unfortunately there is not a single medical test such as blood test or scan that can be used to diagnose an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Instead, an autism spectrum test for children relies on a series of evaluations that examine multiple facets of their behavior and development. These evaluations are typically conducted by a team of medical professionals that may include a pediatrician, psychologist, occupational therapist, and speech and language pathologist. They also review information provided by parents and teachers as well. The team will then collaborate on their findings to determine whether the child fits into the autism spectrum and where.
What is an Autism Spectrum Disorder?
You may have heard the terms autism or autism spectrum disorder but aren’t really sure what they mean. ASD is a general term used to encompass a variety of complex disorders of brain development. It is an umbrella term that covers several autism disorders that were previously diagnosed separately. They include: autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and childhood disintegrative disorder. Children with these disorders exhibit difficulties with social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behavior. Some children are affected to greater degrees than others which demonstrates why it is known as a spectrum disorder – children can fall anywhere along the spectrum depending on the severity of their disabilities.
While many children are diagnosed when they are toddlers or by early elementary school, some children are diagnosed a little later when discrepancies in their development and social skills become more evident. Children with autism may also have intellectual disabilities, sleep problems, motor function issues, attention problems and other health issues. There is not a single description that encompasses all children with ASD since their symptoms can vary greatly. This makes it even more important for parents to follow their instincts if they are concerned about their child’s development.
Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder
Diagnosing autism spectrum disorder can be challenging since symptoms vary from child to child. Your pediatrician should be conducting regular screenings for signs of ASD during wellness exams to detect problems early on. If your child is delayed in meeting developmental milestones such as babbling, pointing to objects, reacting to facial expressions, holding eye contact, or initiating cuddling or being held, they may refer you for further evaluation.
At PediaPlex, we use a multi-disciplinary approach in autism spectrum disorder testing in children. A psychologist, occupational therapist, and speech and language pathologist will assess your child’s behavior, speech, social skills, neurological development, fine motor skills, communication and other areas. You will be asked about your child’s behavior at home, sleeping and eating habits, medical history, and family history so they can build a more comprehensive understanding of their environment and situation. Your input is valuable as you know your child better than anyone.
Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist
The team at PediaPlex has in-depth knowledge and extensive experience working with children with developmental disabilities and autism spectrum disorders. Autism-specific evaluation tools are used to gauge your child’s strengths and areas of need to create a more comprehensive understanding of where they are at developmentally. Our assessment protocol includes:
- Cognitive and achievement measures
- Speech, language and pragmatic measures
- Sensory assessment
- Adaptive measures if developmental delays are suspected
- Multiple observations across diverse settings
- Parent and teacher interviews
- Screening checklists such as the CARS, GARS and GADS
- Autism team evaluation using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Scales (ADOS)
- Personalized behavior assessment
If you are concerned about your child’s development, we encourage you to talk to your pediatrician and ask for a referral for further evaluation. Take a moment to fill out our patient intake form and we will contact you about how we can help address your child’s needs. PediaPlex can help you to not only understand the challenges your child faces, but also work toward overcoming them and supporting your child in reaching their potential.