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What can parents expect at a diagnostic evaluation?

If an ASD is suspected, a multidisciplinary evaluation should be conducted as soon as possible. During these evaluations, the child and parents may meet with a number of specialists, including a pediatric neurologist or developmental pediatrician, psychologist, speech-language pathologist, and occupational or physical therapist. Each professional will conduct part of the evaluation, and the results will be summarized in a written report. In order to qualify for a diagnosis of ASD, the individual must meet the criteria established by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR; American Psychological Association, 2000*).

The evaluation may consist of the following components:

1. Medical and developmental history

2. Autism testing

3. Psychological testing

4. Speech-language assessment

5. Occupational or physical therapy assessment

Are any medical tests used to diagnose ASDs?

Although there is no diagnostic laboratory test for ASDs, tests are often recommended for the following reasons:

1. to search for a cause

2. to find out if there are other medical problems that might look like autism (e.g., hearing loss)

3. to detect additional medical problems that might be co-existing with an ASD

Changes to the Diagnostic Criteria – Changes to be published in May 2013

In December 2012, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) approved changes on how autism will be diagnosed. The changes will be published in May 2013 and will be posted when available.  The DSM-5 collapses the diagnoses of autism, Asperger’s Disorder, and PDD-NOS under one umbrella term, autism spectrum disorder. “Overall, the symptoms listed in the old and new criteria are very similar. The new criteria emphasize social impairments more so than communication impairments and now includes sensory symptoms,” said Dr. Suzanne Buchanan. Introduced in 1994, the now familiar term “Asperger’s Disorder” is being dropped from the diagnostic criteria as diagnosticians will now be expected to use the term “autism spectrum disorder” and note the level of support the individual needs.

 As we wait for May 2013, opinions on the impact on the autism community abound. As always, Autism New Jersey stands ready to monitor any changes in diagnostic trends and assist individuals to obtain needed services. Keep reading>> 

Learn the Signs

The CDC’s Learn the Signs, Act Early campaign is dedicated to sharing information about developmental milestones from ages 3 months to 5 years. A variety of free materials is available in many languages so parents and professionals can learn about expected behaviors and skills for each age level. Call us at 800.4.AUTISM for more information about milestones, screenings, and intervention.

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