Rates of Autism Spectrum Disorder are rapidly growing. While partially explained by increased awareness of the disability and better diagnostic tools, studies at Rutgers University state that these factors do not explain the increase fully. However, specialists agree that early detection and intervention help children to maximize their strengths, develop essential social and life skills, and increase independence as they grow.
Behavior Observation by Parents and Caregivers
Only a highly trained specialist can provide a formal ASD diagnosis through tests such as the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS-2). For such tests, the child must be two years old or older. However, there are signs and symptoms of this developmental disability that may be detectable in infancy, and parents and caregivers should take note of these signs.
While not positive proof of autism, the following developmental delays may be indicative of ASD in children aged 6 to 24 months:
- Avoiding eye contact
- Limited babbling and few spoken words or phrases
- Absence or infrequency of smiling or laughing
- Not responding to being called by name
- Not engaging in joint attention
- Engaging in repetitive behaviors or gestures
If these behaviors persist, parents or caregivers should bring them to the attention of their pediatrician or family physician. Typical well-child visits include routine developmental assessments. If yours doesn’t, parents and caregivers can and should request them.
Screening by Family Doctors and School Staff
The American Association of Pediatricians recommends that all pediatricians screen patients for ASD at 18 and 24-month checkups. Pediatricians often use tests that include the ASQ-SE2, CSBS, or M-CHAT-R/F. Again, these are screening measures, not diagnostic assessments.
School-age children attending schools with a licensed school psychologist may be able to receive higher-level assessments such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS-2). For children diagnosed with ASD, school personnel will become an integral part of their care through early intervention services and special education.
Diagnostic Testing by Health Professionals
When parent observation and autism screening through a physician or school doctor indicate the possibility of autism, a referral to diagnostic specialists is common. These developmental and behavioral health professionals will order the appropriate tests and assessments and, if indicated, diagnose ASD.
The diagnostic process for ASD may include:
- Detailed observation of the child within multiple settings
- Detailed questionnaires for parents, caregivers, and teachers
- Developmental assessment of motor skills, cognitive function, and social skills
- Hearing and language evaluations
- Various medical tests for physical causation
- Genetic testing
As early detection of ASD is crucial, the process is detailed and exhaustive, using a swathe of tools to reach a correct diagnosis.
WPS Provides Trusted Assessment and Diagnostic Materials
Western Psychological Services has been a recognized world leader in autism assessment since 1948. WPS collaborates with clinicians and physicians to determine and provide the appropriate assessment tools for each patient. Learn how WPS can help health professionals and school personnel provide the best diagnostic and assessment tools for the children in their care.