How is autism diagnosed?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for autism at their 18 and 24-month well-child checkup. If you're not sure if your child has been screened, you can ask for a screening. You can also complete the online autism screener, print the results, and bring them to your healthcare provider to discuss your concerns.
If the screener shows that your child may have a greater chance of having autism - it is not a diagnosis. You should speak with your child's healthcare provider about getting a full evaluation from a qualified medical specialist such as a neurologist, behavior pediatrician, or psychiatrist, who can provide a diagnosis.
In the meantime, you don't need to wait for a diagnosis of autism to receive services to address related developmental delays and learning challenges. You can access these services free of charge through your state's Early Intervention program (ages birth - 3) or your school district's Special Education Office (age 3 - 21). Research shows that early intervention can provide the best outcomes.
Even if your child is receiving services through early intervention or your school district, and their screening indicated an increased risk for autism, you do want to get a full evaluation. That evaluation may result in a diagnosis If you get a diagnosis of autism, you want to contact your early intervention provider or school district and let them know. The diagnosis may help to provide access to autism specific treatments.
It's important to remember that if your child does receive a diagnosis of autism. He or she is the same child as before the diagnosis. The diagnosis provides access to the services that he needs.
This can be a confusing time. Please reach out to the Autism Response Team with any questions that you may have. We are here to help!
Are you a teen or adult seeking evaluation for autism?
See our Adult Autism Diagnosis Tool Kit.