Autism Diagnostic Evaluation
For ages 18 months to 30+ years
Evaluations for Autism Spectrum Disorder require specialty experience, including specific training in administering the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). Dr. Adams has over 7 years of experience conducting diagnostic assessments for toddlers to young adults. She received evaluation training and experience at Louisiana State University, Riley Hospital for Children, Children’s Hospital New Orleans, and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA).
Dr. Adams’s evidence-based evaluation includes:
Behavioral evaluation for symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ADOS)
Measure of cognitive functioning (abbreviated IQ test for an estimate) - if 6+ years of age
Measure of social skills
Measure of daily living skills
Measure of emotional issues to screen for co-occurring problems like anxiety, depression, inattention
Caregiver and teacher interviews
Daycare or school observation
This evaluation package also includes a 50-minute feedback session in which Dr. Adams will review the results with you and answer any questions you may have. The package also includes a comprehensive written report in digital and hard copy. You can share this report with other professionals/therapists, use to access treatments such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), and provide to your child’s Regional Center and school/district. If your child meets criteria for Autism, the report will indicate a medical diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, including current functioning level.
Why evaluate for Autism?
To determine appropriate treatment - evidence-based interventions for mental health and behavioral issues differ based on diagnosis. For example, a child with ASD may not benefit from traditional treatment for anxiety. People with ASD may benefit from a variety of treatment modalities, including ABA, social skills group, adaptive skills training, etc.
Early intervention works best! ABA therapy, the most effective intervention for ASD at this time, offers best progress when a child is between 2 and 5 years of age. (But it does work at other ages, too!)
Understand yourself or your child better. Why do you/your child do ____ ? Why is ____ so hard? These are questions you may ask yourself about yourself or your child. ASD and its accompanying unique symptoms may be the answer.
Access to supports, whether that be at school or through the community/state (i.e., local Regional Center). Having a medical diagnosis indicates to school personnel that a professional has diagnosed your child. This may mean your child is more likely to get accommodations through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or at your child’s private school.
Autism evaluation has few costs and many benefits. There is the financial expense, time and energy, and possible emotional burden for you as a parent. These should not be taken lightly. But, the evaluation is not much work for you (fill out some forms about your child, complete a ~50 minute interview), and it’s not bad for your child, either. For very young children, there is no IQ test, and the ADOS will seem like playing! For 6+ years or older, they will go through an abbreviated IQ test (two subtests as opposed to multiple hours of cognitive and academic testing that is unnecessary for an ASD diagnosis), and the ADOS will include play, looking at a book and some pictures, and some open-ended questions. Nothing too hard!
Have early concerns about Autism for your very young child? I’d recommend:
Talk to your pediatrician. Is the doctor concerned? Does s/he notice any early signs or “red flags”?
Talk to daycare personnel. They obviously can’t diagnose ASD and aren’t experts, but they see LOTS of kids, including yours, for many hours a day!
Observe your child and compare your child with peers (at the park, birthday party, daycare). Is s/he keeping up socially? Exhibiting any unusual behaviors?
Check out the CDC website, linked here. They offer milestone checklists, videos of typically developing children as references, and even a milestone tracker app!
But ultimately, go with your gut. Caregiver intuition is real, and you know your child best. Getting an autism evaluation can’t hurt if you have the financial means and time. It’s actually pretty fun for your child - the evaluation is play-based!