Clinically reviewed by Claire Ellis, M.S., BCBA, LBA, National Director of Training & Development.
Here are the next steps for parents if Autism Spectrum Disorder is suspected
Visiting the pediatrician for well-checks, especially in those first early newborn months, can be exciting to see how many pounds or inches your baby gains each visit. As your baby grows, your pediatrician will start asking about his/her or their specific developmental milestones. If you have questions or begin to worry that your child isn’t developing in the same way as his or her peers, it can be concerning.
If atypical development points towards potential Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) warning signs, begin conversations with your doctor about diagnostic options. At 18 and 24 months, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children are screened for autism. Whether the signs were noticed during a well-check by the pediatrician, or certain behaviors (or lack of) have been a recent cause for concern, obtaining answers and a diagnosis are the first steps toward feeling in-control and helping your child.
Dr. Gregory Worthington, clinical psychologist at Acorn Health, explains what to do if you notice warning signs and the steps to take to obtain an official diagnosis.
What Are the Warning Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Generally, abnormalities in a child’s communication and social skills along with the presence of restricted or repetitive behavior patterns and sensory sensitivities are initial signs of ASD. More specifically, children with autism often display these signs:
- Poor eye contact
- Lack of communication skills
- Restricted or repetitive behavior patterns
- Social or friendship challenges
- Highly restricted interests
It is extremely important to note that if your child displays these symptoms, it does not mean the child has ASD, but could signal that further evaluation is warranted.
Steps to Take
If you notice some of the warning signs listed in your child over time, consult with your child’s pediatrician first to rule out any underlying causes. Because these symptoms could indicate a vast number of conditions, either neurological or physical, medical professionals can determine if an in-depth psychological evaluation is indicated. While teachers, daycare workers, speech therapists and others are important stakeholders in your child’s development, they are unable to fully diagnose ASD. A full psychological diagnostic evaluation will need to be completed by a licensed medical professional. Psychologists, psychiatrists and neurologists in your area may offer ASD diagnostic testing as part of their medical practice. Your insurance company may also be able to help connect you with medical professionals in your area offering diagnostic services.
As you begin the steps to obtain a full evaluation, you can still receive services related to your child’s developmental delays through local programs. Reach out to your state and/or school district’s Early Intervention Programs to learn more about what is offered. Initial services are extremely beneficial for your child, even before an autism diagnosis is obtained. If your child is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, they will likely qualify for many additional services.
There are two critical psychological tests your child will need, the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, SECOND EDITION (A-DOS-2) and the Autism Diagnostic Interview, REVISED (ADI-R). Additionally, several other psychological assessment measures and clinical questionnaires can be utilized to clarify many aspects of your child’s development and level of functioning.
At several of Acorn Health’s Michigan locations (Traverse City, Gaylord, Cadillac and Grand Rapids) we are able to clarify psychological diagnostic concerns with an initial Telehealth session, which typically lasts two hours and, if indicated, an additional office-based session will be scheduled that lasts approximately three hours. We understand that you will want to know the results as soon as possible, so feedback regarding the diagnosis will be provided at the end of the evaluation sessions and you can expect to receive a written report within one week.
If you’re in another area outside of where Acorn Health provides diagnostic testing for Autism in Michigan, we recommend the following:
- Consult with your pediatrician on local diagnostic testing resources
- Contact your insurance company for local options based on your insurance plan
- Contact your local health system or autism resource center
- Research clinical psychologists, psychiatrists and neurologists that may offer ASD diagnostic services
*Please note that if you are in a rural area of the country it is not uncommon to have to travel to another area of your state to receive an ASD diagnosis.
What Happens Once Your Child Receives a Diagnosis?
After an autism diagnosis is received, there are many powerful treatment options. A multi-disciplinary approach to treatment, including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) would likely benefit your child. Acorn Health specializes in providing high-quality ABA services. The Acorn Health admissions team will work with your family to provide information about what to expect with ABA therapy and how to enroll your child for services. An official ASD diagnosis is required by insurance companies in order to start services. The sooner your child begins receiving therapy, the sooner they can begin making progress, reduce problem behaviors, and develop the skills that will help them be more successful in educational settings, at home, and later in life.
When something unusual is present in a child’s development, parents need firm answers to what is going on diagnostically. If you’re in the Michigan area and are seeking an ASD evaluation for your child, please contact our admissions team at (844) 244-1818.