The physical appearance of infants or toddlers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) frequently does not distinguish them from other children their age. In fact, kids might pick up sitting, crawling, and walking quickly. Children with ASD, however, may communicate, interact, conduct, and learn in ways that differ from those of most other children as they continue to grow and develop.

Children with ASD, for instance, may exhibit behavioral difficulties, have speech and language impairments, and interact with others differently than other children their age. Parents typically begin to question whether something might be wrong around this time.

Starting the evaluation procedure to receive an official diagnosis may seem like a difficult effort if you find yourself in this circumstance, where you are unsure whether your child has autism. By describing how to get your child tested for ASD, including where to start and what symptoms to look for, we want to help reduce some of this burden.

Autism Spectrum Disorder: What Is It?

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A neurodevelopmental illness known as autism, or autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), is characterized by difficulties with social skills, repetitive activities, speech problems, and nonverbal communication difficulties. ASD is typically diagnosed in the early years of childhood.

Males are three times more likely to receive an autism diagnosis than females, with one in 44 children in the U.S. currently suffering from the condition. This disparity is partly probably because females with ASD are more prone to “mask,” or disguise, their symptoms.

The American Psychiatric Association combined four separate autism diagnoses into one diagnostic, called ASD, in 2013. Previously, there were various classifications for autism. There is now a single diagnosis for conditions such as Asperger’s syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, PDD, and autistic disorder.

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Since there are numerous varieties of autism rather than just one main type, scientists decided to change the diagnosis to a spectrum disorder. In other words, each individual with ASD has a set of personal strengths and limitations. Their abilities to study, speak, think, solve problems, and communicate might range from well developed to severely limited.

Although autism is regarded as a lifelong disorder, there is a broad range in the type and intensity of symptoms people present with. The degree of a person’s symptoms and the amount of help they need determine which of the three levels of autism they have, according to the most recent DSM-5 diagnostic criteria: Level 1 (mildest, requiring support), Level 2 (needing substantial support), and Level 3. 

ASD often manifests when a child is 2 or 3, although some developmental impairments can show up even sooner, and children can be identified as having ASD as early as 18 months.

A major indicator of autism spectrum condition is difficulties engaging in social activities. Therefore, a very young child may struggle to move back and forth, avoid eye contact, appear uninterested, ignore their name, lack a social grin, fail to point or wave, and appear concentrated on particular objects throughout their early years.

Autism Spectrum Disorder Symptoms

It’s crucial to remember that not all of these symptoms will definitely be present in children. Likewise, the degree to which people manifest these symptoms will vary. Here are a few typical indications of ASD:

  • not being a baby with enormous smiles or happiness.
  • Avoiding or using it sparingly when making eye contact.
  • Facial expressions are absent.
  • Experiencing a delay in the emergence of language.
  • Not pointing, not waving, not reaching.
  • Losing previously gained social, verbal, or babbling abilities.
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  • Valuing privacy and personal space.
  • Having trouble interpreting social signs or feelings.
  • Showing persistent word or phrase repetition.
  • Putting up with modest alterations in habit or environment.
  • Limited range of interests.
  • Performing routine actions (flapping, rocking, spinning, etc.).
  • Experiencing strong or unexpected reactions to flavors, textures, lighting, and/or colors.

How Is ASD Identified?

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Diagnosing ASD is difficult due to the lack of a medical test or blood test for the disease. Instead, to determine a diagnosis, medical professionals consider a number of variables, such as the child’s behavior and developmental history.

An individual must meet the DSM-5’s diagnostic standards in order to be diagnosed with autism. Deficits in social contact and communication, as well as confined repetitive and stereotyped behavioral patterns, are examples of this. Early childhood symptoms must be present, they must interfere with the person’s functioning, and another diagnosis cannot better describe them.

Ultimately, the diagnosis of ASD is made by combining all the data from testing, observation, and history. Here are some of the procedures and tests used to identify ASDs.

Monitoring of Development

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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that clinicians frequently start looking for signs of ASD during the very first well-child visit. In fact, they’ll pay attention to your baby’s giggles, looks your way, screams, and even utilizes hand motions to try to catch your attention. They can tell if your child is at risk for ASD based on these indicators, your family history, the results of any health checks, and your involvement.

This procedure, also known as developmental monitoring, is keeping an eye on your child’s development as they grow and change. Healthcare professionals are examining your child to see if they have reached the expected developmental milestones for speaking, acting, learning, playing, and moving.

They may talk to you and play with your child to assess if they’re growing and hitting milestones. You can take part in developmental surveillance as well. Consult a physician or other healthcare professional if you observe that your child is not achieving milestones.

Screenings For Developmental Issues And Well-Child Visits

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The AAP advises screening for ASD in addition to routine developmental examinations at your toddler’s 18- and 24-month well-child visits. Early developmental and behavioral issues in your child may be identified thanks to this kind of screening. Furthermore, screening is advised for all children, not only those who exhibit symptoms.

Overall, your provider may screen your child using a wide range of tools. You can choose from a range of screening instruments, such as the ages and stages questionnaires, the PDD-II, communication and symbolic behavior scales, or a modified checklist for autism in toddlers, because the AAP does not support any particular screening method.

Complete Behavioral Assessments

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A quick test with a screening tool can tell you whether or not your child is developing normally or if an expert should take a deeper look, even though it does not diagnose an ASD. It could be necessary to do a formal developmental review if the screening tool reveals a problem area.

This professional assessment offers a more thorough look at your child’s progress overall. These experts might watch your child, administer a structured test to them, quiz you, or request that you complete questionnaires.

Genetic Analysis

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In particular, if an ASD diagnosis has been made, the AAP advises that families be provided genetic testing, such as Chromosomal Microarray (CMA) and Fragile X testing.

Genetic testing can identify as many as 20% of children with ASD who have chromosomal abnormalities. In fact, according to certain research, certain kinds of genetic tests can identify up to 25% to 35% of patients.

Genetic testing may be recommended if your child has uncommon physical traits or developmental delays, a family history of Fragile X Syndrome, an intellectual disability of unclear cause, or other genetic disorders.

Why You Should Test for ASD in Your Child

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Despite how intimidating it may feel, pay attention to what you observe or feel about your child. Instead, be sure to speak with a medical professional or your child’s pediatrician about your worries.

According to research, early intervention helps autistic people achieve their goals later in life. Therefore, the better the prognosis, the earlier a child is diagnosed. Starting early can give both the child and the parents access to information and support early on, and it can help the child learn better coping mechanisms.

A kid can also start evidence-based therapies and access support, resources, and accommodations once they have undergone testing and received a diagnosis, which can enhance their outcome and quality of life. Since the spectrum is so broad, these therapies and supports may change for certain children, so it’s crucial to speak with your provider before making a choice.

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She claims that receiving a formal diagnosis of autism from a qualified expert is a requirement for some therapy and financing for those therapies. Early intervention may be essential to your child’s development in the future.

Additionally, young children can more easily be assisted in achieving significant developmental milestones in social skills, communication, motor abilities, and self-help skills since the brain is more pliable in the first few years of life. Early intervention also helps the youngster feel less frustrated and exhibit fewer problematic behaviors.