I Think My Child May Have Autism
If you think your child has autism or your child is showing signs or symptoms of autism, it is important to have them screened. The sooner your child receives a diagnosis, the sooner they can begin needed services which can improve their outcome and quality of life.
This article will give you information about the screening and assessment processes, including:
- How to prepare for your appointment
- What to do during your appointment
- Answers to frequently asked questions, such as what to do if a doctor or school tells you to wait and see
What Is An Autism Specialist
Before 1994, autism wasn’t diagnosed frequently. The change in diagnostic criteria has increased the awareness of the condition significantly. . But there are still relatively few medical professionals who are specifically trained to diagnose and/or treat autism. As a result, the people who are best qualified to diagnose children with autism are those professionals who have had the most experience in doing so, and those professionals may have a wide range of titles. These may include:
- Social Worker
A New Understanding Of Asd
After reading and researching ASD and feeling certain this information describes yourself, you may experience an identity shift towards one that is autistic. Reflecting back on moments in your life, you may view things that happened in a different context, through the lens of autism. Retelling the story of your life may now have the ASD perspective. Remembering your stories, reflecting on them, and receiving feedback will change your narrative. This process of self-discovery helps to make sense of whats happened in your life how having ASD has shaped the way you think, react and feel. Maybe some of the confusion is gone, you understand yourself better, and in time you can share this discovery with people you trust.
This new identity may also cause feelings of loss, resentment or anger. Its OK to feel this way as this is a life changing event and it can feel overwhelming. Try to think about the positive things such as your strengths. People continue to grow, change and adapt throughout their lifespan. You can learn new skills and find new ways to do things that may make life easier and more comfortable.
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Support For Adults With Autism
Adults arent generally given the same support as children with ASD. Sometimes adults with ASD may be treated with cognitive, verbal, and applied behavioral therapy. More often, youll need to seek out specific support based on the challenges youre experiencing .
Some possibilities include:
- seeing a psychiatrist experienced in autism for medical evaluation
- consulting a social worker or psychologist for group and individual therapy
- getting counseling on an ongoing basis
- getting vocational rehabilitation
- taking prescription medication for symptoms like anxiety, depression, and behavioral issues that may occur alongside ASD
Many adults with autism have found support through online groups and forums, as well as by connecting in person with other adults on the autism spectrum.
Early Signs Of Autism
Autism signs may vary between children. However, there are some early signs to look for when it comes to autism.
One early sign of autism can be limiting and avoiding eye contact with others. Children may not play or interact with other children, parents, or other caretakers.
Children with autism may also have a harder time with language and may not have as many words as other children their age. Additionally, they may have a harder time communicating by using words.
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Diagnostic Criteria For 29900 Autism Spectrum Disorder
To meet diagnostic criteria for ASD according to DSM-5, a child must have persistent deficits in each of three areas of social communication and interaction plus at least two of four types of restricted, repetitive behaviors .
Specify current severity:
Severity is based on social communication impairments and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior.
Challenges Of Secondary Settings
Educators and other key stakeholders in the students life must understand how characteristics of HFA may be manifested in inclusive classroom settings, in order to design and implement instruction to maximize student success.
An additional consideration is the reduced special education support available to students with HFA because of the need to take classes associated with graduation requirements and preparing for high-stakes testing. In most cases, secondary settings do not have enough special education teachers available to support students in all classes . Knowledge of the evidence-based practices recommended for students with HFA can help Individualized Education Program teams make informed decisions about instruction, behavior management and support needed for students with HFA.8
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Why Get An Autism Diagnosis
My children both got diagnosed early in relation to speech and language challenges. It was an easy choice for us as we knew they would need access to support throughout their education. Needing help at school is a common reason for children to get diagnosed. I do however appreciate that it can be far more complex for others.
Whilst I fully understand particularly adults choosing to self-diagnose personally I think a diagnosis is an important step for autistic children even if they are doing well academically. The main reason I think its so important comes down to self-esteem.
When someone regularly faces difficulties and feels different to their peers it can be easy to start to feel like it is their fault or they are wrong in some way, this is not healthy for mental health. Knowing there is a reason they feel different can make a big difference. In addition if the people around someone know they are autistic they will usually be more mindful and supportive of different needs they may have. Why we dont do this for everyone is a rant for another day!
Some people will be happy to get a diagnosis as it is an affirmation or helps to access the supports needed. Others can take time to come to terms with a diagnosis. Again everyone has a different journey and thats fine.
Where To Get An Assessment
There are a number of government-funded services that specialise in the assessment and diagnosis of autism. You can contact these teams directly, but you may need a referral from your GP.
There are also private practitioners and organisations that conduct assessments on a fee-paying basis. These services can be accessed via a referral from a health care professional, or you may be able to refer yourself directly.
Quick tip:It is important that you are assessed by a qualified professional with a comprehensive understanding of autism across ages and genders, and practical experience with the assessment and diagnosis process.
To learn more about professionals experienced in the assessment and diagnosis of autism, go to our Support and services section.
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How And Why To Get An Autism Diagnosis
There are several routes to getting an autism diagnosis. Some will get an early diagnosis under aged 5, many will be diagnosed whilst at school and others in adulthood. There are also many who never get a diagnosis, some dont realise they are autistic and others choose to self-diagnose.
For some the journey starts because of specific challenges such as speech and language or mental health. Whilst others will be specifically seeking a diagnosis to confirm what they already know. Everyone will have a different experience of the diagnosis process, there is no right or wrong way to go about it. The important thing is for individuals to understand their own brain and know if they are autistic or not.
Types Of Screening Tools
There are many different developmental screening tools that may be administered by professionals, community service providers, and in some cases, parents. These include:
- Ages and Stages Questionnaires
- Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales
- Parents Evaluation of Development Status
- Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers
- Screening Tool for Autism in Toddlers and Young Children
- Observation tools such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule
- The Childhood Autism Rating Scale
- The Autism Diagnostic Interview Revised
This list is not exhaustive, and other tests are available.
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Supports For Youth Preparing For Adulthood
Youth with developmental disabilities who are preparing for adulthood can access transition planning beginning at age 14. These plans can include:
- educational planning
- transitioning from secondary school and youth services to adulthood
- preparation for family members to help support these transitions
- identifying goals for work, further schooling and community living
How And Where To Obtain A Diagnosis/assessment In Indiana: Autism Spectrum Disorders And Mental Health
Dr. Cathy Pratt, BCBA-D and Marci Wheeler, MSW
When an individual is suspected of having an autism spectrum diagnosis and/or a mental health issue, obtaining an accurate diagnosis can be a time consuming, costly, and confusing process. However, the process can be made easier when qualified personnel are located who can thoroughly assess the individual to determine if they meet the diagnostic criteria for either, or for both. In this list, we have documented not only those who diagnose, assess, and/or treat an ASD but also provide options for those who have or are suspected of having a mental illness.
For children attending an ABA program/center, some are equipped with licensed personnel to perform some level of diagnostic testing as part of or in addition to the intake process. ABA centers are focused on obtaining a medical diagnosis and typically not an educational evaluation needed for schools. Most are also equipped to complete programming assessments, including the ABLLS®-R and/or VB MAPP. Ongoing assessment assists with program development. Contact individual providers/centers to identify their assessment options. For a list of ABA providers in the state of Indiana, visit our website at .
If you know of others who diagnose/assess ASD or mental health issues, please contact me at so we can add their name to the list.
Health Professionals Your Child May See During The Assessment Process
- Paediatrician â a medical doctor with special training and skills in children and their diseases. A developmental paediatrician specialises in child development and behaviour.
- Child and adolescent psychiatrist â a medical doctor with special training in treating children and teenagers with mental illness.
- Psychologists â an allied health professional trained to assess and treat mental health and behavioural problems.
- Speech pathologist â an allied health professional who assesses and treats speech, language and communication disorders.
- Occupational therapist â an allied health professional trained to assess and support people with physical, sensory, or cognitive problems and help them regain their independence.
- Social worker â An allied health professional trained to assist people and families manage difficulties. This could be through a combination of counselling and practical support.
After You Complete The Determination Of Needs Process
The intensity of support needs for your child
Based on the results of the determination of needs process, care coordinators will identify if your childs intensity of support needs are:
Receive your yearly funding
The amount of funding that your family can use to purchase OAP core clinical services each year depends on:
- the intensity of your childs needs
- your childs age
If you are eligible to receive less than $25,000 in one year, you will receive your funding in a single payment after you complete the determination of needs process. You will need to submit an expense form and any required documentation to account for your spending.
If you are eligible to receive more than $25,000 in one year, you will receive your funding in installments, up to a maximum of $25,000 per installment. You will receive your first installment after you complete the determination of needs process. You will need to submit an expense form and any required documentation to account for your expenses before you can receive future installments.
The process for making payments in installments may change once the independent intake organization is in place, as it will be responsible for issuing funding to families and reconciling expenses.
Develop treatment options and use funding
After you receive your funding allocation for OAP core clinical services, you will work directly with a clinician of your choice to develop treatment options and plan for your child.
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Conducting An Adult Autism Evaluation
Because of these limitations, the evaluation of an adult has to lean heavily on direct observation. This will be in the context of a discussion between the clinician and the patient about current challenges in the areas of social interaction and communication, sensory issues and restricted interests or repetitive behaviors.
However, some higher functioning adults on the autism spectrum become very resourceful in developing strategies to compensate for their disabilities. Clearly, this makes a diagnosis based on observation much more difficult.
But diagnosis remains important even when for those who have learned to hide their symptoms because they may still struggle in their everyday lives and interactions.
In these cases, its important to explore the lifelong presence of related developmental issues. In particular, its critical to get detailed information about early childhood. Sometimes this clearly reveals an early development that fits with a diagnosis of ASD.
While our diagnostic checklists are designed for children, I find that they can be useful as we explore an adults childhood development. In particular, I sometimes interview older relatives such as parents who can recall the patients early childhood in some detail. Often they can answer questions from diagnostic checklists and, so, inform a possible diagnosis. Clearly, this is not possible when there isnt an older relative available for a reliable report.
Youre Doing Something Amazing
No matter what kind of progress your child makes on your goals, youre doing something amazing when you teach her at home. Youre showing your support for your child and offering help when it comes to overcoming challenges. Your child will remember your efforts, and youll see greater progress overall.
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What To Look For When Buying Toys For Children With Autism
Sensory When choosing a toy for your child, always ensures that it has the ability to fulfil your childs craving for a sensory feedback.
Sensory toys will help your child focus and relax as well as develop social learning skills like planning, negotiating and sharing. For an autistic child, deformed sensory input can make their life hard in so many ways.
From social interaction to proprioception to even safety, distorted perception along with their inability to communicate can lead to irritability. Intervention using sensory toys will help them make better sense of their environment and make it easier for them to communicate.
Volume Control Toys with sounds and volume control will aid your child with auditory processing. Toys such as sound puzzles, bells, whistles, talking toys, radio and music boxes are great for children with autism.
Some children with autism are hypersensitive to sounds in general and may highly dislike toys with unpredictable noise or sounds at certain frequencies. This is why it is always a good idea to have toys with volume control to avoid any tantrums or discomfort.
Allowing your child to increase and decrease the volume of their toy using the button will definitely be considered sensory fulfilment to them too.
Visually Appealing Visually stimulating toys such as those with a screen or that light up will be the perfect entertainment for your child. Autistic kids have a visual fascination with lights, movement, and bright colours.
Finding The Right Person To Diagnose Autism
The right person or group to diagnose your child will be trained, experienced, affordable and available in your area. To find that person :
- Start with your own pediatrician. He or she may have a terrific list of names, and may even be able to help you get an appointment quickly.
- Connect with other parents. Local support groups and listserves are wonderful resources for information about professionals who are both competent and supportive.
- Check with your school district and/or regional agencies. You may find there are low-cost or free options available to you.
- Surf the web. If you live outside a major city, you may find terrific resources that your suburban sources know nothing about.
- Do your homework. Check on the recommended specialists to be sure that they really have the credentials and experience you want.
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Finding Someone Qualified To Evaluate Adults With Asd
Currently, there are relatively few clinicians who specialize in evaluating and treating adults with autism. Nor do we have established criteria to objectively judge such qualifications.
In my opinion, your best bet may be a developmental pediatrician, child psychiatrist or pediatric neurologist who is both experienced in evaluating autism in children and open to seeing older patients. So I would recommend talking to the clinician who diagnosed your child. If she or he does not feel qualified to evaluate an adult, he or she may have a respected colleague who would be.
Otherwise I would recommend contacting an established and respected autism center in your area. Examples include the centers in the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network. This will provide you with the assurance that the clinician has agreed to adhere to the centers high standards for care for patients with autism, regardless of age.
Thanks again for your question. I hope this information helps and that youll let us know how youre doing.