Understanding ASD Diagnostic Processes

Unlike other medical conditions, diagnosing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is not a straightforward matter. The diagnosis cannot be made by doing a simple medical test with a clear, unambiguous answer; instead, it can only be made by observing an individual’s behavior and development. Here is what is involved during an ASD diagnosis:

Developmental Screening

During routine visits to the pediatrician, children should be screened for developmental milestones within their first few years of life. Some of the screening tools used can identify symptoms of ASD; typically these are given at 18 and 24 months. If a medical professional sees any signs of a developmental delay, further evaluation can be done in order to determine whether ASD is present. If you have concerns regarding your child’s development, share your concerns with your doctor and request a screening.

Comprehensive Diagnostic Evaluation

Although a pediatrician can diagnose ASD, oftentimes primary care physicians will refer to a specialist for a comprehensive evaluation. Medical professionals who diagnose ASD are developmental pediatricians, neurologists, or psychologists or psychiatrists. The medical professionals conducting the evaluation should have experience assessing individuals with ASD.

A comprehensive evaluation includes interviewing the parents, reviewing the child’s developmental history, and observing the child’s behavior. Moreover, assessing an individual for ASD will include vision and hearing evaluations. It may also include tests of genetic and neurological factors. A child may be observed across multiple settings, and other people who interact regularly with the child may be interviewed as well. This holistic approach helps to ensure an accurate diagnosis.

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