So how do we diagnose a child with an autism spectrum disorder?
First concerns are raised by parents, and they often come to their primary pediatrician with a concern, for example, of delayed speech, or the child is not responding to their name, or not having enough eye contact.
If, for example, your pediatrician, for some reason, minimizes your concern, and says let's do the wait and see game, and I will follow this, you know, this child does not have enough symptoms for me to have concern, a parent can also reach out to Early Intervention and go to other resources in their community to get more screening done.
I think screening is an important thing because where it's being done now at 18 months and 24 months, that is the recommendation by the American Academy. So that is something that you know your child will get, but if you have concerns before that, absolutely reach out earlier and be persistent with your concern because there's diagnosis that can be done definitely by two years of age.
We are able to also diagnose children earlier, and a lot of the diagnosis is not only done by pediatricians, but can be done by psychologists through the Early Intervention Program, and you can initiate that yourself.
There are standardized tools that are used for diagnosing autism, per se. They can be parent questionnaires, as well as observational and evaluations. A lot of it is done by psychologists, but pediatricians, neurologists, psychiatrists can do the diagnosis based off the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, the DSM-V. It can be a diagnosis based on behavioral criteria.
You may have a child getting more formalized testing done, including a psycho-educational testing, which also gives you a level of severity and that is one of the requirements now with the DSM-V. It's important to get a team evaluation, much that you might have one physician or one psychologist make the diagnosis, there are other areas that also need to be evaluated, whether they have sensory issues, or fine motor delays, or gross motor delays, for example.
So doing a multi-disciplinary evaluation is important to make a comprehensive diagnosis.