Evaluation and Assessment
Assessing the existence of an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a very complicated process. ASDs are diagnosed by collecting information based on the behavior of the individual, typically as these behaviors existed in the first five years of life. Continued existence of maladaptive behaviors is also considered, but the first five years are particularly important, as ASDs are considered a diagnosis of early childhood. This does not mean that the disorder ceases to exist after early childhood, but that the symptoms or behaviors will begin to manifest in those first five years.
There is a "triad of symptoms" that define the existence of an ASD; however, no two instances of ASD look exactly alike. The "triad" can be thought of as deficits in communication, socialization and behaviors, and activities. Further information on this triad is available by clicking below on the criteria for diagnosing an Autism Spectrum Disorder. But, as an example, a deficit in socialization can look as different as one child who refuses to interact with others and prefers to be alone, to another child who is interested in others but has no idea how to interact appropriately and, therefore, appears as intrusive, with poor boundaries and a lack of respect for others’ personal space. Just as different as these two deficits in socialization appear, so can the deficits in communication and activities and behaviors appear quite different. Therefore, an assessment or evaluation by a health care provider who specializes in ASDs is often advised.
If your are coming to Autism Counseling and Behavior Consultation for an evaluation of a possible ASD, be prepared to answer many questions regarding the individual’s developmental milestones, as well as current behaviors and interactions with others in the individuals’ life. It will be helpful if information from significant others in the individuals life is also available. This might include reports or letters from teachers, other care takers that spend significant time with the individual (i.e. parents, grandparents, babysitters), or other therapists. Additionally, it may be helpful to take a look at the individual’s baby book or any other journal detailing significant events in the individual’s life. In some cases, a correct assessment can be made through an hour long conversation regarding current and past behaviors. However, in most cases, the family and/or individual will need to return for an additional appointment where further information will be gathered through continued interviews, as well as one-on-one interactions between the individual and Ms. Ernsperger. These interactions will be in the form of structured play or conversational settings where socialization, communication and repetitive behaviors or sensory interests can be evaluated.
Click here for the criteria for diagnosing an Autism Spectrum Disorder as set by the 2013 Revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-5). See the DSM-5 manual for details and examples.
Click here for information on what to do after your child receives the diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Disorder.