If you notice symptoms of autism in your child, talk to your doctor or physician as soon as possible. Discuss what you’ve experienced in detail so that they fully understand your concerns. The doctor can have your child evaluated to determine if your child has Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Since the publication of the DSM-5, many of the sub-types of autism have been folded into the single diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. This means that Asperger’s Syndrome, PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified), and similar disorders are no longer given as an official diagnosis and instead they will use the more broad term of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Unfortunately, there are no comprehensive medical tests that can be run for autism. Medical science has not been able to specifically pinpoint autism in people. Instead, diagnostic screening and a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation are used to find out if a child is autistic.
If you have a preschool or school-age child that you suspect may have Autism Spectrum Disorder, or Asperger’s Syndrome, you can take the Childhood Asperger’s Syndrome Test or Childhood Autism Spectrum Test, otherwise known as CAST on our website for free.
If your child is a teen or adult, you can have them take our other online diagnostic tests.
Getting Your Child Diagnosed
Many parents experience difficulty when seeking a diagnosis for their biological female child. This is often due to the fact that the symptoms and behaviors expressed by biological females are not as pronounced or severe as those expressed by biological males.
If the medical professional who tests your child doesn’t believe that your child has autism, you may want to consult another expert to get a second opinion, especially if the child exhibits common autism traits or behaviors.
It is best to take your child to a doctor who specializes in autism or has a lot of experience with autistic children, otherwise your child may be misdiagnosed.
Frequently, Autism Spectrum Disorder is either misdiagnosed or confused with other behavioral issues like hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and attention deficit. The first diagnosis most kids with Asperger’s get is that of ADHD before it becomes evident that the reason behind their behavior is the inability to socialize not a failure to focus.
You can ask for recommendations in online support groups, browse medical professional directories online, ask friends or family members if there is anyone they recommend, or call doctors in your area and ask how much experience they have with autism.
The Evaluation Process
Diagnostic screening is a series of tests conducted by a medical professional. During this screening, the doctor or health care professional may talk to the child or interact with them to see how they respond to different stimulus.
Screenings are recommended for children during regular doctor check-ups at 9 months, 18 months and 24 to 30 months of age. Additional screening may be necessary if your child can be considered high-risk due to low or high birth weight, congenital defects, or other health concerns.
A comprehensive diagnostic evaluation is a much more thorough analysis of a child’s mental and physical development. The doctor may run blood work, genetic tests, conduct hearing and vision screenings and neurological testing.
If your child is suspected to have autism or another developmental disorder, your doctor will refer you to a specialist for additional testing. Some of these experts include psychiatrists, child psychologists, neurologists and developmental pediatricians.
They will usually interview you to learn more about possible signs of autism that you’ve noticed in your child. This will usually include having to fill out numerous questionnaires about your child’s development and behaviors. Evaluations can take several hours or even all day as they observe and evaluate your child and their development.
One or more of these specialists may be recommended depending on your physician’s input. Take the time to attend these sessions with your child, answer any questions the specialists may have and listen to their advice and analysis.
Getting Help and Support
If your child does have autism, know that you are not alone and there thousands of parents experiencing many of the same struggles you are.
Living with a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder isn’t easy. It often requires a lot more effort and energy. There will be good days, and there will be bad days.
When bad things happen, don’t take it out on the child. Things happen sometimes because the child has difficulty adapting, adjusting or communicating. They need your support and guidance just as much as anyone else in your life.
You can find support online through forums and Facebook groups, full of parents sharing their stories and advice. There may also be local support groups where you can meet with other parents and give your child a more supportive social experience by enabling them to meet and play with others on the spectrum.
Doctors are also able to prescribe physical therapy or speech therapy if your child experiences problems with coordination or speech. Many autistic children also benefit from equine therapy, where your child pets and rides horses.
The availability and cost of therapy varies. You may have to drive a long distance, be put on a waiting list, or adjust your work schedule to take your child to therapy.
When it comes to your child’s education, you may find your school is supportive. Over the past several years, school districts have become more accommodating of special needs children. Some schools even provide speech therapy, counseling, testing, and other assistance at the school. An official diagnosis may be required before your child is granted access to these services.
In addition, many schools will create an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) for your child that will address the specific challenges your child has while attending school, and it is updated each year.
Taking the time to understand your child’s condition and making sure that they have a stable environment is crucial. It can make the difference between a difficult childhood and a relatively stress-free life for them.
Living with autism is a never-ending battle, but it’s one that you can persevere through with enough determination, patience and love.