Autism Diagnosis

Autism Diagnosis: Prep and Measures

If you’ve been noticing some early signs of autism in your child, and have brought your concerns to a physician, the next step will be a diagnostic test for your child. This assessment will be done by your physician, but he or she may also refer you to another doctor.  They will ask you for all of your child’s medical records. This includes:
  • any diagnostic and developmental assessments made through community resources
  • screening results
  • genetic testing
  • history of seizures, head trauma, etc.
  • information about your child’s intervention history (i.e., early intervention, occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy)
  • questions and concerns for the doctor
Here is a list of possible diagnostic assessments the doctor might conduct:
  1. Autism Diagnostic Interview (ADI) – a 45 minute parent-interview which thoroughly asks about possible ASD symptoms in your child (adapted from Lord et al., 1994)
  2. Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) – a 45 minute observational measure that looks for ASD symptoms (Lord et al., 1999, 2000)
  3. Bayley or the Mullen Scales of Early Learning (MSEL, Mullen) – each of which is a 60 minute standardized assessment evaluating cognitive, language, motor, and other developmental areas. (Mullen, 1997),
  4. Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales (VABS) – a 45 minute parent interview that provides a measure of adaptive functioning (abilities to be independent and solve problems according to the child’s age), assessing communication, daily living, socialization, motor, and problem behaviors (Sparrow et al., 2005)
  5. A best estimate diagnosis based on DSM-5 criteria by a clinician.

Your child’s testing should be done by someone who has had experience of working clinically with children with ASD. They should have been trained and certified to conduct any measurements. Finally, if the person doing your child’s assessment is not a Ph.D or M.D., they should be supervised by someone who is. If you have any questions or concerns about who is conducting your child’s assessment, or if you feel that the assessment is not representative of how your child normally behaves, be sure to ask your physician questions and notify him or her of any concerns.