If you are wondering how to get your child tested for autism, you will need to know:
- Can you test for autism?
- Who can diagnose autism?
- Should I have my child evaluated for autism?
- Where to get a child tested for autism
- Is it worth getting an autism diagnosis?
Getting My Child Diagnosed with Autism
We always want the best for our children, and it can be scary to think about how life will change with an autism diagnosis. However, autism awareness, care, and the quality of life for autistic children are always rising, and getting your child tested is essential to preparing your child to thrive.
Can You Test for Autism?
Yes, you can test for autism. Certain diagnostic criteria are outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) for the American Psychiatric Association. There are usually multiple diagnostic steps taken to assess your child to determine whether or not they have autism.
Who Can Diagnose Autism?
Autism is a clinical diagnosis, which means that medical professionals must base their diagnosis on your child’s developmental history and present behavior. Similarly, this means there is no lab testing for autism, as symptoms range from mild to severe – meaning autism is a spectrum disorder.
Can a Pediatrician Diagnose Autism?
Your child’s pediatrician can be one of the first steps towards diagnosis, but general pediatricians are not often the final evaluators. If you see a developmental pediatrician with specialized training to diagnose autism, they can certainly help with your child’s diagnosis.
Can A Neurologist Diagnose Autism?
Neurologists can perform screenings and diagnostic tests that contribute to an overall autism diagnosis, but they are typically not the medical professionals who conclude whether or not a child has autism.
A neurologist’s main role is to rule out neurological disorders that might be causing the symptoms of autism in a child.
Should I have My Child Evaluated for Autism?
If your child is exhibiting symptoms of autism, you should get them evaluated right away. The process of autism screening is not typically extensive or traumatic, and early diagnosis and treatment can make a huge difference in how your child develops throughout their early life.
Because there are several steps, medical professionals, and diagnostic methods needed for a typical autism evaluation, it can seem overwhelming to start. We’ve found that breaking down the process step by step can give you a better sense of what you need to accomplish for a proper autism evaluation of your child.
An autism evaluation can be accomplished relatively quickly if you communicate with the right medical professionals and manage appointments.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about autism evaluations:
How do Doctors Diagnose Autism?
Because there is no lab testing for autism, your pediatrician and specialists will be making observations for specific benchmarks in behaviors. ASD has a wide range of symptoms, but your doctor might ask you about things or look for signs that include:
- Smiling by six months
- Mimicking expressions and babbling by 12 months
- Repetitive or unusual behaviors
- Trouble making eye contact
- Problems with sleep
- Trouble with human interactions
- Difficulty understanding words or actions
If there are follow-up tests, the next appointment will usually be with a team of ASD specialists, including child psychologists, SLP, occupational therapists, and other developmental professionals.
At What Age Can You Test For Autism?
Autism spectrum disorder can sometimes be detected at 18 months or younger, but this is not common. By the age of two, enough symptoms are typically present in most severe cases that a medical professional can begin developing a reliable diagnosis. However, many children do not receive a final diagnosis until well into adolescence or even adulthood.
How Long is an Autism Evaluation?
An autism evaluation often starts with developmental screenings. Your pediatrician or another qualified medical professional will perform several brief tests during this process as you fill out a questionnaire, which typically takes a few hours.
How Long to Get an Autism Diagnosis?
Suppose your child has shown symptoms or signs during their autism evaluation that warrant further testing and potential diagnosis. In that case, this process can take several weeks to several months, depending on your child’s age, the symptoms, and specialists required to assess them.
No child and their respective environment are the same as others, so a significant portion of the process for medical professionals includes information gathering and learning about your child’s behavior.
If you can document or tabulate some of this information leading up to an evaluation, it can help with the speed of diagnosis.
Where to Get a Child Tested for Autism?
There is no single test to determine an autism diagnosis, and there are several ways to start an autism assessment process – but they all involve a medical professional.
Often, your child’s pediatrician will start with basic screenings and then will refer you to any of the following:
- A specialized autism clinic
- Developmental specialists
- A Speech-Language Therapist
- Early Intervention State Program
The most important thing to do when pursuing an autism evaluation is to manage communication between medical offices. We always encourage parents to be the biggest advocates possible for their children, and the more involved you are in scheduling and information sharing, the easier it will be to get the help your child needs.
Is It Worth Getting an Autism Diagnosis?
It is worth getting an autism evaluation for your child. If your child is diagnosed with autism, it will allow you to start treatment and acclimation processes as early as possible.
Ultimately, we always want what is best for our children, and though autism can be a daunting diagnosis to face, a proper and timely diagnosis is in your child’s best interest now and for the rest of their lives.
The good news is that autism research, professional resources, and the worldwide autism community are growing stronger every year. If your child is diagnosed with autism, you can lean on these resources to be the best ally possible for your child throughout their journey.