Screening for Autism
Screening and diagnosing children with
autism spectrum disorder is difficult as there is no medical test, such as a blood test, to diagnose those with autism spectrum disorder. Instead, a doctor will look at your child’s behavior and development history to make their diagnosis. The diversity of autism spectrum disorder can make it difficult to diagnose correctly.
It is important that parents know what signs to look for in their child. Sometimes autism spectrum disorder can be detected at 18 months or younger, and by 2 years of age, a diagnosis can be considered reliable. There are children, however, that do not receive a diagnosis until much older in their adolescent or adult life.
Tools Used to Screen for Autism
There are different tools a doctor will use in order to screen your child. They are the following:
Ages and Stages Questionnaire: This test has a set of questions regarding behavior and social-emotional development in young children. It consists of nine questionnaires for different ages.
Pervasive Development Disorders Screening Test: This test consists of a 23-item questionnaire with three different varieties based on the screening setting.
Communication and Symbolic Behavior: This test consists of 22 rating scales grouped into seven clusters. These communication and symbolic rating scales are grouped into: communicative functions, vocal communicative means, reciprocity, gestural communicative means, verbal communicative means, symbolic behavior and social-affective signaling.
Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers: Revised with follow-up: This test consists of a 23-point questionnaire regarding language delays and concerns about behavior.
It is important to know that screening is not diagnosing. If a child tests positive after a screen, it does not mean they will be diagnosed. Additionally, some forms of autism are genetic and may have genetic testing conducted.
What to Expect
In addition to the screening measures listed above, other measures will be used to receive a comprehensive evaluation.
Diagnostic instruments may be used with different modules to accommodate different ages. For toddlers, this version will be play-based, but for older children, the module will be conversation-based. The evaluation does not have right or wrong answers, but instead pays attention to if the child gives others a chance to speak, asks for help if it is need and is able to follow a change in subjects.
Interviews are another measure that is often used. The interview is typically with parents and consists of general development questions and what the parent’s current concerns are.
Cognitive testing is often also used. This testing allows the individual conducting the assessment to examine a child’s behavior in a socially loaded session with less structure. It also gives more understanding into how a child plans, solves and organizes problems.