How is Autism Diagnosed?
There are no medical tests for diagnosing autism. An accurate diagnosis must be based on observations of the child's communication, behavior and developmental levels. However, because many of the behaviors associated with autism occur with other disorders, a doctor may order a variety of medical tests to rule out other possible causes.
Diagnosis may be difficult for a practitioner with limited training or exposure to autism because the characteristics of the disorder vary so much. Locating a medical specialist or a diagnostician who has experience with autism is most important. Ideally a child should be evaluated by a multidisciplinary team, which may include a neurologist, psychologist, developmental pediatrician, speech/language therapist, learning consultant or other professionals knowledgeable about autism. Several diagnostic tools have been developed over the past few years to help professionals make an accurate autism diagnosis:
Checklist for Autism in Toddlers
Childhood Autism Rating Scale
Parent Interviews for Autism
Gilliam Autism Rating Scale
Behavior Rating Instrument for Autistic and other Atypical Children
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, edition IV (1994)
Autism Diagnostic Interview – Revised
Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule - Generic
A brief observation in a single setting cannot present a true picture of an individual's abilities and behaviors. At first glance, the person with autism may appear to have mental retardation, a behavior disorder or problems with hearing. It is important to distinguish autism from other conditions because an accurate Diagnosis can provide the basis for building an appropriate and effective educational and treatment program.