There are currently no specific medical tests that can diagnose a child with ASD. Diagnoses are made through combination information gathered from parents’ expertise in their child’s development in early years and formal clinical observation of children. I adopt a multi-disciplinary approach to ensure a comprehensive assessment is undertaken. A tool commonly used by specialists to diagnose ASDs is the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). This is a group of structured tests that can be tailored to different age groups.
Parents, family, teachers and friends are often confused by a diagnosis of ASD. Many parents say, “My child can’t be autistic because he’s affectionate, make eye contact, likes to be hugged, doesn’t bang his head, etc.”Some children with ASD may not make eye contact; other children make eye contact, some of the time while other children may seem to stare. Some children with ASD like to be hugged but others do not. As much as children share similar characteristics they also can be very different from each other. Like all children, children with ASD have different likes and dislikes. A diagnosis of ASD means that your child’s development will look different in two main areas:
Social communication (include social interaction and Play) and , behaviour, interests which are repetitive or limited.
During the evaluation, the paediatrician will seek information about a child’s detail developmental history (speech and language and social communication skills, social, play skills, behavioural functioning and motor (gross and fine motor) adaptive skills and sensory profile. Children will participate in some of the tests. These tests require the child to follow directions, answer questions and/or play. These evaluations may require more than one appointment with professionals from different disciplines (e.g., speech language therapy, psychology, occupational therapist, questionnaires and nursery/ school report). The number of appointments and professionals participating will be determined based on each child’s specific needs and reason for referral (e.g., medical, behavioural). Feedback about your child’s diagnosis and recommendations for appropriate interventions and referrals will be provided once the evaluation is complete. Additionally, medical tests (e.g., genetic testing, brain imaging) may be requires to rule out any neurological or biological explanations for delays in development, if indicated.
Professional trained in this area can identify ASD in children as young as 18 months old. However some children with ASD who have intact language skills but have more subtle difficulties with peer interactions may not be identified until the child goes off to school. That’s when difficulties with social interaction may appear more significant. Many of these children are not diagnosed with ASD until around primary or secondary school. When a teacher first notices signs and symptoms, they talk to the parents and ask for an agreement to do a full assessment of the child. Additionally, parents can also request that the school provide an assessment of the child social and educational profile if they have concerns about their child’s academic/behavioural progress.