Our goal is to simplify the information gathering and evaluating process. Our approach is to provide multiple perspectives from leading authorities and varies websites on autism related topics. This will provide our readers the opportunity to gather multiple viewpoints from a single location and form the best-educated decisions for their family’s needs.
Disclaimer: The Autism Resource Foundation provides general information to the autism community. The information comes from a variety of sources, and the Autism Resource Foundation does not independently verify any of it, nor does it necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of the Autism Resource Foundation. Nothing on this website should be construed as medical advice. Always consult your doctor regarding the needs of your family.
Source: Everyday Health
January 10, 2014
Because autism is a disorder for which there is no definitive test, making a diagnosis requires close observation and ruling out other conditions.
Autism is a developmental disability that first appears during childhood, but symptoms may not be properly diagnosed until much later. Autism may be mild or severe — from presenting some challenges to being nearly debilitating when it comes to functioning in society.
There’s still a lot that’s unknown about autism — it’s not understood what causes it, and there’s no real cure. But treatment exists in the form of therapy to help people after an autism diagnosis is made.
Spotting the Signs of Autism
Most often, autism is noticed and diagnosed during childhood; the symptoms can become clear by about age 3. While your child’s pediatrician will perform well-baby and well-child exams to make sure he is developing normally, it’s still important to know the warning signs and seek an autism diagnosis if you suspect that your child may be autistic.
Basic warning signs of autism in children include:
- Difficulty communicating and acting withdrawn
- Problems interacting socially and playing with others
- Avoidance of physical contact or body language like smiling and eye contact
- Repetitive sounds or motions
- Frequent temper tantrums
- Delayed speech and physical advancement
Eliminating Physical Conditions
If your child is showing autistic tendencies, because there is no clear diagnostic exam or test for autism, one of the first steps is to rule out any physical problems or health conditions that could be causing these symptoms. Such tests include:
- A full physical
- A hearing test
- Genetic testing
- A test for lead poisoning
- A neurological exam
- Blood work and other lab tests
The Autism Evaluation
As a parent or caregiver, you’ll need to have an interview with your child’s doctor to talk about your concerns and any symptoms that you’ve noticed. You’ll also need to provide a medical and mental health history for your child and a family medical history. Your child’s doctor will also run a number of tests and exams to help diagnose autism, which may involve a number of other professionals such as physical and occupational therapists. Additional evaluations may include:
- Behavior observation. Doctors will watch your child play, interact with others, or attempt to solve games or puzzles to see how he responds. How your child behaves in these situations can help doctors spot signs of autism.
- Evaluation with a speech pathologist. This health care professional will evaluate your child’s language, speech, and ability to communicate to look for signs consistent with autism and other potential causes.
- Assessment of ability to function. Your child’s doctor will present scenarios and tasks for your child to accomplish, while he evaluates how your child handles those situations. This examines problem-solving skills and adaptability skills, and can help to diagnose autism.
Your child’s sensory motor skills will also be evaluated to determine whether the symptoms are a result of autism or if a sensory motor problem is actually the cause.
Autism is just one part of a group of conditions called autism spectrum disorders, which all have similar symptoms. All of the health care professionals on your child’s medical team should be familiar with these disorders and should use criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV), a medical reference book that defines mental health conditions for the purposes of diagnosis, to make a diagnosis of autism. Once your doctor has compiled information needed from you and your child, he’ll compare the results and your child’s symptoms to rating scales designed to help in making a diagnosis. Since there’s no blood test or imaging scan to diagnose autism, every diagnostic element is a key piece of the puzzle that is diagnosing autism.