The Basics of Autism
Autism affects a child’s ability to communicate and develop social skills. Autistic children may
seem emotionally detached. According to the Mayo
Clinic, they may exhibit obsessive
behavior, including intensive preoccupation with a particular object.
These are only a few of the potential symptoms, all of which can range from
mild to severe. Symptoms are often apparent by age 2.
Many of these symptoms may be hard to
pinpoint. They might be confused with personality traits, or with other
development issues. That’s why it is essential to see a professional if you
suspect your child might suffer from an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
According to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC), a number of different doctors and specialists
will play important roles in helping your child with an ASD diagnosis. In order
to reach a diagnosis, doctors will observe your child’s behavior and ask you
questions about his or her development. This process can include a number of
different professionals from different fields.
Below are some of the assessment points and
the different specialists who may play a role in your child’s diagnosis.
Initial Medical Screenings
Your pediatrician or family doctor will
perform initial screenings as a standard part of your baby’s regular checkups.
Your doctor can make basic measures of your child’s development in the areas of
language, behavior, and social skills. If your doctor notices anything unusual
about your child, you may be referred to a specialist.
Before making an appointment with any
specialists, make sure they are experienced in ASD diagnostics. Ask your
pediatrician for several names, in case you later want a second or third
In-Depth Medical Evaluation
At this stage, for the most accurate
diagnosis, your child will undergo ASD screening. These are not medical tests.
No blood test or scan can detect an ASD. Instead, these tests involve prolonged
observation of your child’s behavior. Doctors test if children are learning
basic skills when they should, or if there might be a delay. In addition, you
will take part in detailed parental interviews about your child.
perform these types of tests include:
- developmental pediatricians
- pediatric neurologists
- child clinical psychologists or
- audiologists (hearing
- physical therapists
- speech therapists
ASD can sometimes be
very complicated to diagnose. Your child may need a team of specialists to
determine whether or not he or she has an ASD. The differences between ASDs and
other types of development disorder are subtle. That’s why it is important to
see well-trained specialists and potentially seek out second and third
ASD varies, and each child will have their own
needs in school.
Working with a team of specialists, your
child’s educators will need make their own evaluation to determine what special
services they may need in the school setting. This evaluation can happen
independently of a medical diagnosis.
The team that will
make the evaluation could include:
- hearing and vision specialists
- social workers
Questions For Your Doctor
If your doctor suspects that your
child has an ASD, you may have so many questions that you don’t know where to
start. Here is a list of questions compiled by the Mayo
Clinic to help you get started:
do you think my child does (or doesn't) have ASD?
there a way to confirm the diagnosis?
my child does have ASD, is there a way to tell how severe it is?
changes can I expect to see in my child over time?
kind of special therapies or care do children with ASD need?
much and what kinds of regular medical care will my child need?
kind of support is available to families of children with ASD?
- How can I learn more about ASD?