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Receiving an Autism Diagnosis

Trumpet Behavioral Health explains the autism diagnosis process

By the time a child receives an autism diagnosis, they already have a team of people behind them, including their parents, pediatrician, diagnostician, and often additional therapists or familial support. After their diagnosis, the specialists at Trumpet Behavioral Health are proud to step into the child’s lineup.

We have Board Certified Behavior Analysts® (BCBAs) on staff across the country. These experts in autism therapy have in-depth knowledge of the diagnostic process. Learn what to expect at Trumpet Behavioral Health when your child receives an autism diagnosis.

Meeting with a diagnostician as part of an autism diagnosis

A developmental pediatrician, child psychologist or child psychiatrist can diagnose a young person with autism. The child’s pediatrician can refer parents to the right doctor after the initial screening process.

The diagnostician begins by meeting with the child’s parents. He or she will listen to parental concerns, and ask clear-cut questions about the child’s development. A screening tool, such as the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers® (MCHAT), may help guide the discussion.

The diagnostician will then begin working with the child through a series of direct assessments. Fortunately, these measures do not require an extensive amount of time, and can be completed in one or two visits. Parents remain involved during the testing process.

Levels of severity within autism spectrum disorder

Through the assessments, the diagnostician can also determine the severity of the autism diagnosis. At Trumpet Behavioral Health, obtaining this information helps us gain an idea of how much support a child will need.

  • Level One: Requiring Support. This child struggles with organization, planning, transitions and flexibility. Their social skills may impede their ability to connect with others.
  • Level Two: Requiring Substantial Support. This child shows a deficit in verbal and nonverbal communication skills. It is difficult for them to focus, and they engage in repetitive and restrictive behavior.
  • Level Three: Requiring Very Substantial Support. This child’s communication impairments are severe, and they may only express their basic needs.

Qualifiers for an autism diagnosis

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) lays out five qualifiers for an autism diagnosis. At Trumpet Behavioral Health, ABA therapy is designed to address each of these manifestations.

  • The individual shows persistent deficits in social interaction across multiple contexts.
  • The child engages in restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities.
  • The symptoms are present in the early developmental period.
  • The individual has a clinically significant impairment in functioning and skills.
  • These disturbances are not better explained by intellectual disability or a global developmental delay.

Common tools used in determining an autism diagnosis

Diagnosticians typically use the following assessments in determining a diagnosis and its level of severity. Each are evidence-based and require specialized training to administer. Trumpet Behavioral Health frequently uses these assessments while folding a new family into our program.

  • Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS): The ADOS takes four 30-minute sessions to complete. By interacting with the child, the clinician looks for specific qualifiers.
  • Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS): CARS is used for children under the age of two. It is brief, and examines the child through the five lenses of qualifying behaviors.
  • Autism Diagnosis Interview (ADI): The ADI is used when making an autism diagnosis for individuals from 18 months into adulthood. It focuses on three areas, including social interaction, communication and restricted and repetitive behaviors.
  • Gilliam Autism Rating Scale (GARS): The GARS is helpful in determining the severity level of the diagnosis. It is used with people between the ages of three and 22.

Trumpet Behavioral Health maintains that the most vital component of the diagnosis process is not to delay it. It is important to find a knowledgeable diagnostician who can schedule appointments in a reasonable amount of time. This way, if the child does receive an autism diagnosis, they can begin intervention as soon as possible and begin making steps toward a fuller life.

Contact us for support after your child receives an autism diagnosis.