Let’s be honest. Most are not excited about an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. However, the stigma previously associated with autism spectrum disorder has thankfully begun to fade. More than ever, it is vitally important to focus on acknowledging and treating ASD. The range of conditions or symptoms covered by the term “autism spectrum” is vast. Indeed, young children diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum demonstrate a wide range of both abilities and challenges. This is why it is more important than ever to identify ASD early with “pre-testing”, or screening for autism.
Why Screening for Autism Matters
As indicated above, autism spectrum disorder can manifest in a wide variety of ways. The result of this fact is that it is often complicated to diagnose, especially when it comes to children. Children with ASD are routinely diagnosed with a variety of disorders because such disorders may share symptoms with autism. According to WebMD, among the most common misdiagnoses are attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disorders, and other developmental disorders. But depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and even schizophrenia have been known to masquerade as autism. And still more common is the lack of diagnosis altogether. That is, parents often hear that there is “nothing to worry about,” or that their child “will grow out of it.”
These are only some of the reasons parents must understand what goes into a thorough screening for autism.
Screening for Autism
Psychologists, pediatricians, and other healthcare professionals employ a variety of screening tools when pre-testing for autism. And note here that by “screening,” we are referring to a less formal evaluation that precedes a more comprehensive diagnostic evaluation that usually culminates with a diagnosis (or not). There are two different kinds of screenings that are commonly used.
- Questionnaires – Screening tools in the form of questionnaires are most often filled out by the parents. They can indicate when further investigation is needed. But sources like the Child Mind Initiative warn that many of these tools work within very broad diagnostic parameters. This means that your child may get flagged for follow-up evaluation, even when the behaviors or symptoms are not overly pronounced. Still, questionnaires serve as a good starting place.
- Clinical assessments – There are a wide variety of clinical approaches and tools utilized to screen for autism spectrum disorder that often complements the questionnaires. The nature of your child’s clinical screening will depend upon their age and the symptoms you have observed. Having said that, a few standardized clinical screening tools include, the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (MCHAT), Screening Tool for Autism in Toddlers and Young Children (STAT) and Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales (CSBS).
It is essential to remember that the purpose of screening for autism is not to officially diagnose the disorder. The objective is simply to identify children who are candidates for further evaluation.
After the Screening: Evaluation
Once a child has been identified for further evaluation, the diagnosis process can begin. There are multiple diagnostic tools utilized by medical professionals. And again, the specific tool will be selected according to the age of a child, as well as the range of symptoms and behaviors that a child presents. You should keep in mind, however, that these tests are not punitive. They do not contain right or wrong answers, and they are not tests for which a child can study. Lastly, they are not intended to discourage your child or to have any other adverse effect on their emotional or psychological well-being. The evaluation process represents the next step in progressing towards a diagnosis that will ultimately assist in achieving desired outcomes.
Contact Ascend Autism Today
If you are concerned that your child may be exhibiting signs of autism spectrum disorder, there are steps that you can take to identify ASD as early as possible. You can reach out to us directly using our easy online form, or call us at 877.323.8668. Give your child the new beginning they deserve today!