1. Learn more about autism. This will help you develop a list of questions for the visit and prepare to take action if your child is diagnosed with ASD. For starters, I highly recommend Autism Speaks 100 Day Kit, especially this section on diagnosis, causes and symptoms. Also see the “What is Autism?” section of the Autism Speaks website as well as the Autism Speaks Video Glossary.
2. Gather your child’s information. I recommend filling a folder with your child’s medical records and any previous developmental or behavioral evaluations your child has received. You might also want to bring your own notes on your child’s behavior, as you observe it in different places and with different people. It can also help to jot down some thoughts on what you consider to be your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Bring this folder of records and notes with you to the evaluation.
3. Learn what to expect at the evaluation. Some evaluations are done by a team of specialists, others by a single provider. In general, a developmental pediatrician or psychologist is the best qualified to make a diagnosis. However with training, other medical providers can competently conduct the evaluation. It should involve direct interaction between the provider and your child.
This should include a structured, play-based assessment called the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). Your child may also complete one or more cognitive, or “thinking skill” tests. As a parent, you’ll be asked questions about your child’s behavior and development. In addition, you’ll probably fill out one or more “checklists.” It can feel like a lot of questions, to be sure! Just remember that this information helps the professional make the most accurate and helpful diagnosis.
You should have a chance to meet with your child’s evaluation team to discuss the assessment and diagnosis. You should also receive their written report. In all, the evaluation will take at least several hours and more than one appointment to complete. (Also see the “Diagnosis” page of the Autism Speaks website.)
Read more of Dr. Lauren Elder's Autism Speaks article HERE.