Parents, early childhood caregivers (day care providers, early childhood educators), or teachers may suspect that something is “just not quite right” with a child. This can happen when a child is young, adolescent, or any time in between. Parents then typically share their concerns about development with a pediatrician. Autism can also be diagnosed in adulthood.
Diagnosis begins with ruling out medical causes for any of the symptoms, such as a hearing test or medical tests to rule out other disorders. Diagnosis of autism is based on observation of behaviors and abilities.
A multi-disciplinary evaluation is the best way to determine a diagnosis of autism and help families understand how autism presents itself in their child. Evaluation in speech and language, social skills, sensory processing, and motor skills are important in diagnosis.
There are many different instruments that can be used in diagnosis, depending upon the chronological age and developmental age of the person being assessed. As autism is a “pervasive” developmental disorder, affecting social, communication and behavioral issues, it is important to understand how autism presents itself in the individual, to evaluate across different environments (school, home, day care, community) and to assess strengths as well as weaknesses. Understanding that your child has an ASD is a starting point. You must also assess HOW that person expresses his or her autism to plan for appropriate programming.