Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are not simple to diagnose, so it is extremely important to obtain a diagnosis from a qualified professional. Currently, there are no medical tests (like a blood test) that can detect autism, so professionals look at the child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis.
Professionals equipped to diagnose ASDs include: developmental pediatricians, child neurologists, child psychologists or child psychiatrists. Parents often choose to consult with multiple professionals. You can read about the unique ways each professional can help you on our Early Intervention Services page.
A universal criterion to diagnose ASD does not yet exist and approaches may differ depending on the expert’s area of specialization. Physicians’ diagnoses usually rely on a combination of clinical observation, parental history and application of the DSM-IV criteria published by the American Psychiatric Association.
Elements you can expect to see covered in a physician’s evaluation include: medical, family and social history, physical exam, neurodevelopmental testing, reviews of outside clinical/academic records, and lab testing.
ASD can sometimes be detected at 18 months or younger. By age 2, a diagnosis by an experienced professional can be considered very reliable. However, many children do not receive a final diagnosis until they are much older, and this delay means that children with ASD might not get the early help they need.
Step 1: Schedule an appointment with his/her primary care physician.
Explain that you would like to have your child evaluated for an Autism Spectrum Disorder, so that the receptionist can allocate an appropriate appointment time for you with the doctor.
Step 2: Understand that if your child does receive an autism diagnosis, Early Intervention Services can improve the prognosis of your child significantly.
Plan to be receptive of your physician’s advice and proactive toward helping your child get the services, if any, he/she needs to succeed.