are currently no medical exams to specifically
diagnose Autism. Doctors and healthcare professionals
rely on observation, talking with parents, physicians
and therapists about the child in question to
make a diagnosis.
They examine a core group of three behaviors
that tend to hallmark the disorder. The first
being social interaction, the ability of a child
to interact with both peers and parents. Secondly,
verbal interactions, children may have trouble
vocalizing needs and conversing, usually relying
on grunts and pointing and thirdly doctors look
at repetitive behaviors and if a child has a
narrow field of interests that may be exclusive
Since Autism is such a wide ranging disorder
with many levels of severity, it is not common
for one doctor to decide and make a diagnosis.
Often time professionals have to work together
and compare observations and notes.
First, since vocal communication may be a problem,
hearing tests are generally one of the first
tests to be completed. Once hearing tests are
completed, a complete neurological exam is given,
along with cognitive and language testing.
Neurologists, speech therapists and psychiatrists
are usually brought on board, and at the end
of testing parents should be heavily involved
in talking to doctors about the prognosis and
decide together which way to proceed for treatment.
Nearly all medical professionals agree though,
that an early diagnosis is very important in
the treatment of Autism, as it gives doctors
and therapists a chance to begin work immediately
on confronting the various challenges both child
and parent will face.
During the testing process, it is important
for all parties involved to communicate and
work together. The Autism Society of America
urges parents to use a four-pronged attack when
going through the diagnosis process.
• Stay informed. Learn
as much as you can about your child’s
disorder and when talking to healthcare professionals,
ask questions and if something isn’t clear,
ask for clarifications.
• Be prepared. Be prepared for meetings
with doctors, therapists and school personnel.
Write questions and concerns and note answers.
• Be organized. Many parents find it useful
to keep a notebook their child’s diagnosis
and treatment as well as meetings with professionals.
• Communicate. It’s important to
ensure open communication. If you don’t
agree with a professional’s recommendation,
for example, say specifically why you don’t.
A recent study conducted by
the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral
Pediatrics found that there was a 13 month delay
between parents seeking diagnosis and the Autism
diagnosis being made, with the authors claiming
that the delay was a result of the varying degrees
of the disorder and being first diagnosed with
other problems. This study, although completed
only in the metropolitan Atlanta, Ga. area,
highlights the trouble and difficulty in a firm
diagnosis of Autism.
It is important to remember that you do not
need a diagnosis to begin helping your child.
Whatever the final diagnosis ends up being is
irrelevant to the fact that as a parent you
know your child has challenges and you want
to help your child. Don’t wait for a diagnosis
to start looking at ways to encourage your child
It is also important for parents to realize
that since Autism spectrum disorder is still
being studied and understood. Diagnosis and
treatment information can be widely different
from professionals. Do not take one person’s
advice as the sole source of information, instead
do your homework and find the path that best
suits you and your child toward treatment.
Autism Information »