Understanding the Different Steps to Diagnosing Your Child’s Autism

It often surprises people to learn that it isn’t easy to accurately diagnose autism spectrum disorder (ASD). That’s because there isn’t a single blood test or questionnaire that can detect ASD. Rather, it takes multiple steps and expert observation to spot the signs and determine if a child can benefit from special treatments or interventions.

Scottsdale Pediatric Behavioral Services is the premier pediatric behavioral health center in Arizona. Our team includes the best-educated and best-trained clinical staff in applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy — the gold-standard treatment for people with developmental conditions, such as ASD.

The challenges with diagnosing ASD

An ASD diagnosis usually requires two specific factors. First, an individual must have ongoing problems with interaction and social communication. For example, having difficulty or a lack of interest in making friends or having deficits in empathy.

The second factor involves restricted, repetitive behaviors, such as:

  • Insisting on rigid routines
  • Having sensory hypersensitivity, such as noise sensitivity
  • Fixating on certain topics

Unfortunately, accurately diagnosing ASD comes with challenges. Not only can symptoms vary in severity, but they can also be confused with other medical conditions and syndromes, such as sensory processing disorder. In fact, children can even display ASD-like symptoms when anxious, stressed, or depressed.

The steps to diagnosing ASD

Our team prides itself on the quality of our autism assessments. We rely on science-based, data-driven approaches to reach a diagnosis. Plus, we spend significant time with each child in a one-on-one setting. This ensures we can reach an accurate diagnosis and gain a comprehensive understanding of their individual needs.

Our ASD assessment involves five steps.

1. Meet and greet
The first step involves an initial consultation. This meeting sets the tone for the whole process, making sure you and your child feel completely comfortable. During your visit, we introduce you to our team, state-of-the-art facility, and the work we do.

If you feel comfortable moving forward, we collect your child’s medical history and conduct a brief pre-assessment.

2. Clinical interview
Our clinical interview helps establish an understanding of your child at present, including:

  • Level of functioning
  • Behaviors of concern
  • Goals for treatment

We also review your child’s medical and family history to assess any risks for neurological conditions, and we also ask about your child’s developmental history.

During the clinical interview, we also have your child participate in an interactive pre-assessment activity. This helps us gauge their readiness to participate in the diagnostic process.

3. Direct assessment
This portion of the process involved structured one-on-one assessments, so we can study your child’s social skills and assess their neurocognitive strengths and weaknesses. It typically involves:

  • Responding to questions verbally
  • Solving puzzles
  • Manipulating blocks

We also have them complete tasks designed to assess their memory, higher-level thinking, intelligence, language skills, and motor function.

4. Diagnostic process
The diagnostic process involves taking all of the information we’ve gathered — including parental reports, medical records, and additional information you’ve provided — and compiling it for analysis. This report not only helps us reach a diagnosis, but it also helps us determine the severity of their condition.

Using this information, we outline a treatment plan customized to the unique needs of your child.

5. Feedback point
In the final step of our assessment process, we reconvene with you to report our findings. We start by reviewing the big-picture results, and then we drill down into the specific details, so you clearly understand your child’s diagnosis, needs, and next steps.

Then what?

Our team is dedicated to providing all children and their families with the tools they need to live the best life possible. Whether your child has ASD or not, we can help guide you through the next steps to ensure they develop the behaviors and skills they need to thrive.

To learn more about an ASD diagnosis or to learn more about our pediatric behavioral services, book an appointment online or over the phone with Scottsdale Pediatric Behavioral Services today.