Your child is someone special. With limitless potential, your child can grow up to be anything they want to be. As time passes, you may notice your child follows a unique path – one that is markedly different from most children of the same age. Soon, you might begin to wonder, “What’s causing delays in my child’s development? Does my child have autism?”
Knowing what comes next is important, and when it comes to autism spectrum disorder (ASD), understanding what’s next and who to trust when exploring an ASD diagnosis will provide clarity on the next steps to take. This guide will provide you with a better understanding of ASD and the steps behind diagnosing autism.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
ASD is a complex developmental condition that typically appears during the first three years of your child’s life. Parents usually notice signs of ASD when their toddler takes a bit longer to meet the expected milestones in language development, social skills, and behavior.
While there is no cure for ASD, early diagnosis and prompt treatments, such as ABA therapy, can help children improve their communication, social skills, and behaviors. With the proper treatment and support, children with ASD can begin to achieve developmental progress by learning the skills they need to live a fulfilling life full of potential.
Who is Most Likely to Have ASD?
While you may feel isolated once your child receives an autism diagnosis, it’s estimated that one out of every 54 children will be diagnosed with ASD. According to the CDC, boys are four times as likely to have ASD than girls.
Autism spectrum disorder often goes undiagnosed. Learning how ASD is diagnosed can help you better understand your child’s development, identify treatment options, and advocate for their needs.
The Steps Toward an ASD Diagnosis
There are two main components to diagnosing autism spectrum disorder: screening for autism and confirming the diagnosis.
To help you understand these procedures, we’ve broken down the diagnosis of ASD into three simple steps.
The first step that a medical professional takes in diagnosing autism is gathering a family history of physical illnesses and mental health problems, as some genetic conditions may relate to ASD.
Once a family history has been established, the next step is to observe behavior and development levels. A good time to screen for autism is between 18 and 24 months old. This is when some signs of developmental delays may arise.
Early signs of ASD can include:
- Avoiding eye contact
- Poor use of gestures
- Having little interest in interacting with others
- Not wanting to speak
- Being upset by minor changes in routine
Screening tests usually look at eye gaze, facial expressions, body language, social skills, verbal skills, and imagination/creativity.
Confirming the diagnosis requires meeting with a specialist who will evaluate all of these factors, as well as medical history, family history, and other environmental influences that may affect the development of your young one.
If your child shows some signs of autism, your provider will likely rule out other possible conditions that can cause similar symptoms. If there is still no clear answer from ruling out these alternative issues or causes for concern, providers usually come to the diagnosis of ASD.
Who Has The Ability to Diagnose ASD?
Not just anyone can diagnose autism. The diagnosis of ASD is typically made by a specialist such as a developmental pediatrician, child psychologist, or neuropsychologist. A pediatrician may also refer the family to a specialist if they feel it’s warranted. They will have extensive knowledge of the different aspects of ASD and will be able to look at all areas of development to come up with a diagnosis. Be prepared for long wait times to be seen by these specialists.
We recommend scheduling an appointment as soon as you begin to suspect your child may have ASD. Receiving an accurate diagnosis will open the doors to all the various treatment options designed to support your child’s needs.
Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS)
Diagnosis can be based on several factors such as the child’s behavior, family history, medical history, and diagnostic testing. The most commonly used test for a diagnosis is the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), which provides standardized assessments to help doctors diagnose ASD. For toddlers under 30 months, this test is play-based and conducted with the child and their parents; for older children, it is more conversation-based according to the child’s linguistic ability.
During this test, there are no right or wrong answers. Instead, an evaluator will look at things such as:
- Does the child ask for help when needed?
- Does the child follow along with subject changes?
- Does the child allow others to have a chance to speak?
- Does the child play with toys appropriately?
This test gives doctors a better idea of how well a child can communicate and socialize. It is one of the best ways to diagnose autism spectrum disorder. This test is often needed for insurance to approve treatments such as ABA therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Speech Therapy.
Childhood Autism Rating Scale
The childhood autism rating scale (CARS) helps diagnose children who may have autism. The childhood autism rating scale uses a 15 item-behavioral test that helps doctors determine where the child falls on the spectrum. The test is based on observations made by doctors, parents, and teachers.
After the CARS has been given to a child who may have autism, the score is then calculated and compared to a severity scale. The CARS can be delivered as early as 24 months for toddlers or later if the doctor feels the child’s symptoms warrant it.
ASD Treatment at Springtide Child Development Center
Springtide Child Development Center is an integrative childhood development center that supports children on the spectrum and their families. Springtide offers a wide range of services to empower your child to reach their fullest potential and facilitate healthy relationships. Our range of services include:
- Speech and language therapy
- Occupational therapy
- ABA therapy
- Parenting workshops
Contact Springtide Today
Springtide is devoted to supporting children with ASD. We have the expertise, passion, and patience to help your child reach their fullest potential while encouraging you to grow as a parent. Call (888) 260-1609 or contact Springtide today so we can help your little one unlock their limitless potential.
Reach out today and speak with one of our enrollment specialists to get started with Springtide