Common Autism Questions Answered
Who Can Make a Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder?
An autism diagnosis often starts with the family doctor. Parents notice signs in their child that worry them and check these symptoms out with the pediatrician.
The pediatrician can refer your child to several different healthcare providers including:
- A child psychologist
- A child psychiatrist
- A developmental pediatrician
- A pediatric neurologist
How is Autism Diagnosed?
Autism is diagnosed through the following tests and assessments:
- Developmental assessment by one of the specialists listed above.
- Parental checklists
- Teacher/School checklist if school aged
- Physician Observation
- Physical Exam
- Behavioral Assessment
What Are the Different Names for Autism?
Autism spectrum disorder, often just called autism, is an umbrella term for a multitude of symptoms that range from a child needing mild amounts of support to function daily to very substantial support to function each day.
Asperger syndrome, a term being phased out, was used to refer to kids with mild autism or “high functioning” autism.
Neurodevelopmental disorders describe brain and neurological disorders including autism, ADHD, learning disabilities and many others.
Pervasive Developmental Disorder
An umbrella term for developmental disorders in children which includes communication and social skills deficits.
Does My Child Need Early Intervention Services?
Early detection of delays are found through a combination of screens by a pediatrician and family observation .
If your child (birth to age 3) shows signs of developmental delays ,contact the early intervention program in your area and ask for a free developmental screening.
The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents to have children screened by a pediatrician for developmental milestones each year including these areas :
- social skills
- language skills
- motor skills
If your child’s doctor notices any risk factors or delays in your child, they can refer you to many kinds of help.
Early diagnosis is important because when kids get extra help early, they have the best advantage for big improvement in play, communication, learning new skills, connection with other kids and adults. Lots of help is available and often is provided for free.
What Kind of Therapy and Treatment Options Are Available?
A variety of therapies are available to help kids on the autism spectrum.
Occupational Therapy provides help with sensory integration activities, mental health issues, self regulation and assistance with social interactions.
An Occupational Therapist is trained to help kids with focus and attention span, sensory issues, communication, posture and balance as well as gain independence and life skills, strengthen relationships, and express emotions in healthy ways.
Applied Behavioral Analysis addresses increasing positive behaviors and decreasing negative behaviors. ABA is often referred to as the Gold Standard Treatment for autism.
Physical Therapy can be started the first year of life to develop and strengthen muscle tone. A physical therapist can also correct toe walking and develop a stretching, balance and proprioception plan for kids.
Speech therapists work with kids who have speech delays, impaired language development and/or nonverbal communication.
This is one hotly debated topic for sure!
In fact, we still don’t have all the answers to what causes autism.
What we do know is that autism is a genetic disorder, meaning it is passed down through our biological family tree. More than 100 genes are linked to autism.
Genetics + environmental factors results in an increased risk for autism.
Do Vaccines Cause Autism?
No friends, vaccines don’t cause autism.
This myth started when a former doctor, Andrew Wakefield created a fraudulent claim that the MMR vaccine caused autism. Mr. Wakefield has lost his medical license and the journal article once published in The Lancet has been retracted. You can read more about this false study here.
Atypical autism, “autistic traits” and “autistic tendencies” are called Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).
This diagnosis has fewer and milder symptoms than a full autism diagnosis (classic autism).
This diagnosis is no longer used in the DSM.
There is no blood test that can diagnose autism spectrum disorder.
Autism symptoms vary in severity and presentation from child to child. At one end of the spectrum kids need very substantial support with education, communication and behavior while kids on the mild support end of the spectrum need much less support in these areas.