Diagnosing Autism Tips

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Developmental Pediatricians

Developmental-behavioral pediatricians evaluate, counsel, and

provide treatment for children, adolescents, and their families with a

wide range of developmental and behavioral diffi culties, including

• Learning disorders including dyslexia, writing diffi culties, math disorders,

and other school-related learning problems

• Attention and behavioral disorders including attention-defi cit/hyperactivity

disorder and associated conditions including oppositional-defi ant behavior,

conduct problems, depression, and anxiety disorders

• Tics, Tourette syndrome, and other habit disorders

• Regulatory disorders including sleep disorders, feeding problems,

discipline diffi culties, complicated toilet-training issues, enuresis

(bedwetting), and encopresis (soiling)

• Developmental disabilities including cerebral palsy, spina bifi da,

mental retardation, autism spectrum disorders, and visual and

hearing impairments

• Delayed development in speech, language, motor skills, and

thinking ability

• Behavioral and developmental problems complicating the full range

of pediatric chronic illnesses and disabling conditions (for example,

genetic disorders, epilepsy, prematurity, diabetes, asthma, cancer)


Who Can Diagnose Autism?

The following medical professionals may be qualified to assess a child suspected of having autism:

  • Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician (typically referred to as a Developmental Pediatrician)

  • Pediatric Neurologist

  • Child Psychiatrist

  • Child Psychologist

Not all medical professionals are alike. Some may be more experienced in assessing and treating autism. Your child's pediatrician may be able to refer you to someone who can help. In addition, some local organizations which are dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities may also be able to point you in the right direction.However, often the most successful way to determine the right person for the job, is to ask other parents who are already raising children with autism.

What is the DSM-IV?

How Is Autism Diagnosed? Part One--DSM-IV

Autism is a neurological disorder marked by pervasive developemental delays in speech, social, motor, and cognitive skills. Currently, the most widely recognized diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorders is found in the DSM-IV (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-4th Edition). This manual is published by The American Psychiatric Association. It defines and sets the criteria for all known mental disorders, including autism. Due to the potential variation and degree of symptoms for autism, it is best diagnosed by a medical professional experienced in assessing and treating individuals with autism.

Diagnostic Criteria for 299.00 Autistic Disorder

  1. A total of six (or more) items from (1), (2), and (3), with at least two from (1), and one each from (2) and (3):

    1. qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:

      1. marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction

      2. failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level

      3. a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest)

      4. lack of social or emotional reciprocity

    2. qualitative impairments in communication as manifested by at least one of the following:

      1. delay in, or total lack of, the development of spoken language (not accompanied by an attempt to compensate through alternative modes of communication such as gesture or mime)

      2. in individuals with adequate speech, marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others

      3. stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language

      4. lack of varied, spontaneous make-believe play or social imitative play appropriate to developmental level

    3. restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:

      1. encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus

      2. apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals

      3. stereotyped and repetitive motor manners (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)

      4. persistent preoccupation with parts of objects

  2. Delays or abnormal functioning in at least one of the following areas, with onset prior to age 3 years: (1) social interaction, (2) language as used in social communication, or (3) symbolic or imaginative play.

  3. The disturbance is not better accounted for by Rett’s Disorder or Childhood Disintegrative Disorder.

Are there early signs of autism?

Early Signs of Autism

Many children who have autistic disorder are not diagnosed until they are at least 18 months in age. Some are diagnosed as late as three years of age. The signs of autism are usually difficult to detect during infancy. Following are early signs of autism that may be prevalent before the age of 24 months. Common symptoms of autistic disorder include: • Does not smile by the age of six months • Does not respond to his name • Does not cry • Does not babble or use gestures by 12 months • Does not point to objects by 12 months • Does not use words by 16 months • Does not use two-word phrases by 24 months • Regresses after mastering skills/loses previously mastered skills • Delays in milestones like crawling and walking

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