Not long ago, autism was something few people were familiar with. But today, the CDC estimates that one in 44 children in the United States is living with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and that ASD is more common in boys than in girls. It can be a stressful and emotional experience, worrying about your child having this kind of challenge. That’s why testing for autism is one of the best ways to alleviate worry and uncertainty. Getting educated about ASD and the specific symptoms your child is experiencing will help ensure that they get the care and support they need.
What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
ASD is a developmental disability. In some cases, a genetic condition causes differences in the brain that lead to ASD, but experts believe that there are multiple causes, many of which are still unknown or not fully understood.
Most children show signs of ASD by age three. Symptoms can continue for a lifetime, or they may improve with time.
Common warning signs of autism spectrum disorder include:
- Limited interests
- Repetitive behavior
- Avoiding eye contact
- Avoiding physical contact
- A preference for being alone
- Abnormal language development
- Differences in moving, learning, or paying attention
- Difficulty with communication and social interaction
Children with ASD may have a difficult time communicating with others, developing friendships, or understanding social expectations at school or in other external settings. They are also at a higher risk for depression, anxiety, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Because children vary in their rates of development, it is difficult for parents to accurately assess their child’s behavior. Autism testing provides the expert information parents need to properly advocate for their children.
Benefits of Testing for Autism Early
Some parents are tempted to delay autism testing because they are concerned about their child being labeled as having a lifelong disability. While these concerns are understandable, delaying diagnosis also means delaying valuable interventions.
Timely diagnosis of ASD provides children with critical treatment at a time when their brains are rapidly developing.
Studies on ASD are leading more experts to believe that ASD is not necessarily a lifelong diagnosis. Children do not magically outgrow autism symptoms, but with early intervention, it is possible for a child to no longer meet the ASD diagnostic criteria as they mature.
In contrast, a later diagnosis can lead to poorer quality of life, including poor mental health overall.
Early autism testing allows parents and guardians to adapt their child’s home and schedule to create an increased comfort level. Changes in lighting, sound quality, stimulation, and even furniture arrangement can make an environment feel more welcoming to a child with ASD.
Adjustments to the way family members respond to the child as well as communication and educational techniques all combine to give kids with ASD the best opportunity to thrive.
Other helpful interventions include:
- Family training
- Speech therapy
- Physical therapy
- Nutritional counseling
- Hearing impairment services
- Classroom accommodations
All of these interventions can reduce frustration levels and improve a child’s thinking, social interaction, communication, and emotional skills. However, without autism testing, parents and other care providers can only guess which interventions a child needs.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends behavioral screening as early as 9 months old and ASD screening at 18 and 24 months for every child, regardless of symptoms.
Another benefit of early autism testing is the comfort and stability of other family members. Siblings of a child with special needs may have a difficult time understanding why their brother or sister doesn’t want to play with them or why their parents appear to give their sibling more attention.
Early diagnosis gives everyone the chance to receive the support they need to adjust to a challenging situation. Family therapy is often recommended to help maintain a positive, healthy family unit.
What to Expect from Autism Testing
Diagnosing autism is difficult. There are no blood tests or X-rays that show the presence of ASD. For a formal diagnosis, a qualified clinician must perform an evaluation that includes psychological testing and gathering information from the child’s parents.
To get a complete picture, autism testing includes a variety of evaluations.
Health and Behavioral History
The child’s parents will be asked to recall some specifics about the child’s development, including behavioral changes, developmental milestones, and when concerns first developed. The clinician will also ask about the parents’ medical history.
It may take more than one visit for a clinician to gather all the information they need for accurate autism testing.
One of the most commonly used diagnostic tools is the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-2 (ADOS-2). The ADOS-2 is a highly respected diagnostic measure, but it should be used in combination with other assessments for accuracy.
Autism testing consists of several assessments, including:
- Medical, including vision and hearing
- Occupational, including sensory processing and motor function
- Psychological, including cognitive function and social-emotional skills
- Speech and language, including comprehension and everyday language use
The clinician will recommend a range of interventions based on the results of these assessments.
What Happens After Autism Testing?
Treatment for ASD focuses on reducing the symptoms that interfere with a child’s quality of life. Autism affects everyone differently, and each child has unique strengths as well as challenges. Typically, a team of professionals works together to develop an individualized treatment program that addresses the child’s needs.
Does Your Child Need Autism Testing Services?
Newport Beach Family Development provides psychological testing as well as a comprehensive list of therapy services to the Newport Beach, CA, community. Our team is committed to helping families through assessments and supportive therapies.
Call Newport Family Development today if you have concerns about your child’s behavioral health or would like to know more about autism testing for children.