Understanding the process of obtaining the proper testing and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be a source of great confusion and anxiety. Many do not understand the fundamental characteristics of autism or the growth milestones that signal the need for support. In addition, in some populations, autism may be incorrectly stigmatized as a source of embarrassment. This shame can result in a limited understanding of the cognitive components of autism. In addition, some families may fear cultural rejection or being a burden.
More people are being diagnosed with autism each year. This increase in prevalence makes it essential to demystify everything surrounding autism and work harder to support families in need. At ABA Centers of Florida, we created this blog to simplify the autism testing and diagnosis process for families. The information provided will help in the detection and diagnosis of autism.
We understand that this situation can generate concern and a sense of crisis within families, and we hope that our explanation will provide clarity.
An Overview of Autism Testing and Diagnosis
Autism testing and diagnosis can be intimidating for any parent, especially for communities who may not be familiar with the process. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. Autism is a “spectrum” disorder with severity levels but many possible symptoms and manifestations. It is essential to recognize that no two cases of autism spectrum disorder are alike.
Traditionally, testing for autism begins with a visit to the doctor. All children should receive an evaluation at 18 to 24 months to ensure their development is on track. This visit includes a developmental evaluation to check for symptoms of autism. The next steps will follow if the provider suspects your child might benefit from additional testing.
A licensed medical professional will perform the evaluation process for autism spectrum disorder. The process will assess your child’s daily living skills, language, communication, and cognitive levels. In addition, the provider will discuss characteristic behaviors and developmental history. This discussion may involve interviews and answering questionnaires.
The provider(s) will most likely conduct a physical examination to rule out other medical problems. These tests can help identify physical components contributing to challenging behaviors or developmental delays.
Recognizing that the testing process is comprehensive and that your provider will consider many variables before arriving at a diagnosis is essential. To officially receive a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, the patient must meet the criteria outlined in the DSM-5, the guidelines established and recognized by the American Psychiatric Association.
Exploring the Warning Signs of Autism
Autism is a complicated developmental condition that can manifest itself in various ways, making it difficult to recognize, especially if your family is unfamiliar with its characteristics. Early identification of autism is critical to ensure that children in infancy receive the necessary interventions for the best possible future. Therefore, it is critical to understand the potential warning signs of autism so that patients can begin to seek appropriate services if needed.
Some children on the spectrum may exhibit physical symptoms, such as hand flapping or repetitive finger movements; others may express their autism through a fascination with complex topics. These fascinations may include extensive knowledge or memorization of the New York subway system, history, or Disney movie dialogue, to name a few examples. Each child on the autism spectrum is unique.
Some children on the spectrum may require many hours of behavioral therapy to manage their symptoms and broaden their interests. Most healthcare professionals commonly prescribe ABA therapy, considered the gold standard in the industry.
Other indicators of autism may include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Language delays.
- Total lack of speech.
- Repetitive behaviors.
- Restricted interests.
- Limited eye contact or total avoidance of eye contact.
- Lack of interest in other people.
- Sensory sensitivities (i.e., extreme responses to noise, smells, or textures).
- Alternative methods of play that may seem “unusual” to casual observers or peers.
Preparing for Your Doctor’s Appointment
Knowing that a doctor’s appointment may include the diagnosis of a loved one is a very stressful experience. It is important not to worry or feel intimidated during the testing and diagnosing of your child’s autism. Recognize that you deserve a thorough explanation of your loved one’s diagnosis and situation.
Here are some tips for your first appointment:
- Do your research before you go.
- The more research you can do ahead of time, the easier it will be to understand the process and have meaningful conversations with the doctor.
- Before the appointment, make sure you have your questions ready.
- Bring anything that may help the doctor understand your child.
- Gather relevant medical records, test results or evaluations. Notes from teachers or caregivers may also be helpful.
- Describe in detail and objectively any behaviors that concern you.
If your child is lining up his Legos rather than building with them, mention this to the doctor. While this may seem like excessive detail, it may help the doctors understand your child’s developmental quirks or the purpose of their behavior.
Even if your first evaluation needs clarification or turns out differently than planned, support is available at every step. Don’t lose hope; this is a journey.
Interpreting Results and Moving Forward with Treatment Options
Autism testing and diagnosis can ensure your child’s diagnosis is correctly identified and managed. Once the doctor interprets the autism evaluation, they will discuss the results with the patient and family. Depending on the results, your doctor will discuss treatment options.
Several companies specialize in autism therapy. Out of these, ABA Centers of Florida might be your best option. We offer Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), an FDA-recognized, scientifically-backed method widely acknowledged as the gold standard in autism therapy. Through positive reinforcement, your child can learn incredible skills to help them in all areas of life.
Autism Testing and Diagnosis Resources Available
Families may feel lost regarding the process and resources available for autism testing and diagnosis. Fortunately, several resources and organizations are available to help learn about the process. We also have pages exploring the different processes, FAQs, and blogs on various autism topics.
ABA Centers of Florida Welcomes Families with Autism
At ABA Centers of Florida, we promote the benefits of autism testing and diagnosis. We also recognize that some families hesitate to test their children for autism. Accepting and understanding your child’s autism will not increase its magnitude or make things worse. Testing and diagnosis can be the path to treatment that allows your child to gain skills that lead to independence and further participation in the world.
Our team of autism experts at ABA Centers of Florida is here to help you every step of the way. Don’t hesitate to contact us today. Call (772) 773-1975 or click here to see how we can help you or your family find the best possible diagnosis and care.