By Anthony KaDarrell Thigpen
AUTISM ACADEMY – At the Autism Academy, a school for children with autism, it’s important to understand the ins and outs of Autism Spectrum Disorder. We pride ourselves on knowing the best teaching techniques for children with autism and to fully assist the students in building on his or her education and social skills. To do this we need to fully understand how to diagnose a child with autism, so each student can have the best chance of succeeding. Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be difficult, since there is no medical test, like a blood screening, to diagnose the disorder. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) provides standardized criteria to help professionals accurately diagnose the condition.
Pediatricians often look at the child’s behavior and development to make a diagnosis. ASD can sometimes be detected at 18 months or younger. By age two, a diagnosis by an experienced professional is usually considered very reliable. However, many children do not receive a final diagnosis until much older. This delay means that children with an ASD might not immediately get the help they need.
Diagnosing ASD can be approached in three ways, a developmental screening, a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation, or an educational assessment. Developmental screening is a short test to tell if children are learning basic skills when they should, or if they might have delays. During this type of screening the doctor will likely ask the parent(s) some questions. In addition, the physician usually interacts with the child to assess learning, speaking patterns, behaviors, and movement. A delay in any of these areas could be a sign for concern.
All children should be screened for developmental delays and disabilities during regular well-child doctor visits at ages 9, 18, 24 or 30 months. Additional screening might be needed if a child is at high risk for developmental problems due to reasons posed at birth. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all children should be screened, specifically for ASD during regular well-child doctor visits at 18 or 24 months. Even still, additional developmental screening might be needed.
If your child’s doctor does not routinely check, you should ask for a developmental screening. If the doctor sees any signs of a problem, a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation is needed. The second type of diagnosis is the comprehensive evaluation. This thorough review includes looking at the child’s behavior, learning, speaking patterns, movement, social development, and interviewing the parent(s). Comprehensive examines may also include hearing and vision screenings, genetic, neurological, and other medical testing. In certain comprehensive cases, primary care doctors refer children to a specialist, like developmental pediatricians, child neurologists, or child psychologists.
An educational assessment is the third type. This happens at local school districts based on the eligibility category under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). However, a medical diagnosis and educational assessments have different purposes. The medical diagnosis is made to determine treatment strategy, advise future expectations, allow data collection and statistical analysis, and support billing of third-party payers.
On the other hand, an educational assessment is designed to determine eligibility for special educational assistance only.
It is important to note that each state sets its own assessment standards and procedures, within the limits of the IDEA.
However, many children assessed as autistic by the schools do not meet the DSM criteria for autism.
The Autism Academy for Education and Development supports the IEP that has been previously developed by school districts. Administrators at the Autism Academy work hard to make sure that parents and children are properly supported.
If you are interested in sending your child to a school for autism, contact us to learn more information.