How is Autism Diagnosed?

 Both people with high functioning autism and Asperger’s syndrome has average or above average intelligence but struggle with social interaction and communication. At first glance, these people may seem like their neurotypical peers but not quite. Many professional may miss diagnosing children with HFA or AS due to their symptoms as not as profound as others on the spectrum.

 Currently, we don’t have a medical test that can diagnose autism. Instead, specially trained physicians and psychologists administer autism-specific behavioral evaluations.

Parents are the first to notice that their child is showing unusual behaviors such as failing to make eye contact, not responding to his or her name or playing with toys in unusual, repetitive ways.

Parents should seek further evaluation by a specialist such as a developmental pediatrician, neurologist, psychiatrist or psychologist.

Parents know best and should trust their instincts and find a doctor who will listen and refer their child to appropriate specialists for diagnosis. Unfortunately, doctors unfamiliar with diagnosing autism sometimes dismiss parent concerns, delaying diagnosis and the opportunity for early intervention therapies. Early Intervention is essential for the best outcome.  Mocha Aspies and other autism organizations are working hard to raise awareness of early signs.

A typical diagnostic evaluation involves a multi-disciplinary team of doctors including a pediatrician, psychologist, speech and language pathologist and occupational therapist. Other testing may be also recommended, as well as screening for related medical issues such as sleep difficulties. This type of comprehensive helps parents understand as much as possible about their child’s strengths and needs.

The diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and the related diagnosis of social communication disorder (SCD), appear in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), adopted in 2013. Psychologists and psychiatrists use these criteria when evaluating individuals for these developmental disorders.

 In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued their ADDM autism prevalence report. The report concluded that the prevalence of autism had risen to 1 in every 68 births in the United States – nearly twice as great as the 2004 rate of 1 in 125 – and almost 1 in 54 boys.