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May 5, 2021

Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder: When, Where, How, And What Now?

When should you consider testing your child and what happens after? 

Key takeaways:

  • Early signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder include avoiding eye contact, being unsettled by minor changes, communication delays, and rigid or repetitive behaviors.
  • Early intervention is essential if a diagnosis has been made before the age of 5
  • Consider ABA Therapy to help improve challenging behaviors.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 54 children in the U.S. identifies as having Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). While ASD gets a lot of attention in the media, you may not know the facts about it. If you suspect your child is exhibiting signs of ASD or your family is dealing with a new diagnosis, you likely have a variety of concerns and questions.

We will discuss common signs of ASD, when to consider testing your child, how ASD is diagnosed, and most importantly, what happens after.

Spotting signs of ASD

Signs of ASD can sometimes be seen in infants, but generally, they become more apparent when a child is between 18 months and 2 years old. It is not uncommon for a child to be diagnosed at a later age, however.

Early signs of ASD include:

  • Avoids eye contact
  • Little or no interest in playing with others
  • Little or no reciprocation of a parent’s facial expressions
  • No use of single words by 15 months or two-word phrases by 2 years
  • Becomes visibly upset by minor changes in routine
  • Displays rigid or repetitive behaviors (e.g., body rocking, spinning, twirling fingers, hand flapping, etc.)

These are only a handful of signs. The CDC’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early” program provides free resources to help families monitor developmental milestones and recognize signs of delayed development that may be due to ASD.

Assessing and testing for ASD

You may be the primary source when it comes to observing your child for signs of development. Your family pediatrician will also be able to assess and monitor your child’s progress. Pediatricians are trained to conduct periodic developmental evaluations.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends developmental and behavioral screening for all children during well-child visits at:

  • 9 months
  • 18 months
  • 30 months

The AAP also recommends that all children between 18-24 months undergo an ASD screening. There are four basic screenings that can be conducted by your pediatrician.

  • Ages and Stages Questionnaires SE-2 (ASQ-SE2)
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorders Screening Test-II (PDDST-II)
  • Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales (CSBS)
  • Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers – Revised with follow-up (M-CHAT-R/F)

It is important to note that these are screening tests and not diagnostic tools. Vitamin and nutrient level tests, hair analysis, stool analysis, intestinal impermeability studies, urinary peptides, and measurement of mercury or other heavy metals are not recommended tests.

“A diagnosis of ASD is ultimately made based on your description of your child’s development, plus careful observations of certain behaviors by your pediatrician, autism experts, medical tests, and your child’s history,” according to Healthy Children.

What happens after a diagnosis?

Learning that your child is on the autism spectrum can be an emotional time for everyone. On the other hand, having an answer can help you come up with a plan of action.

Early intervention is important for children with ASD. It can significantly improve your child’s overall development, no matter where he or she lies on the spectrum. You want your child to receive age-appropriate support and education. This will help him or her develop the social and functional skills needed to continue developing and gaining more independence.

One method that may help is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA helps children and their caregivers learn the tools to improve challenging behaviors and gain the necessary skills to live more independent lives. Some areas it addresses often include: play skills, communication, and social skills.

ABA programs follow seven basic steps:

  1. Identify behaviors and skills the child should improve upon
  2. Set goals and outcomes
  3. Determine how to measure progress
  4. Evaluate your child’s skill set at the outset of therapy
  5. Develop and follow a treatment plan to help your child learn new skills
  6. Review progress and adjust the treatment plan as needed
  7. Determine if further therapy is necessary

ABA therapies are highly personalized and designed to meet the needs of each child. Every child learns differently and ABA Therapy is tailored to address each child’s individual needs and way of learning.

ABA Therapy at Lumiere Children’s Therapy

Applied Behavior Analysis at Lumiere Children’s Therapy provides a multifaceted approach to teaching skills and changing unwanted behaviors. Our sessions are led by experienced, highly-trained ABA Therapists who can help children with ASD learn valuable life skills. We also incorporate family education to teach parents ABA strategies so that they can see appropriate behaviors carry over at home.

We also provide other comprehensive therapies so children with a wide range of physical, emotional, and developmental conditions can achieve traditional milestones.

Our services include:

  • Speech therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Developmental therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Social work
  • Augmentative alternative communication
  • Early intervention
  • Teletherapy

Lumiere Children’s Therapy is a full-service, multidisciplinary pediatric therapy practice located in Chicago that serves the developmental needs of children from birth to 18 years of age. Learn more about how our team of clinicians works to improve the lives of children and their families.Learn more

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