Diagnosis Of Autism: Expectations And Preparation
What To Expect In A Diagnosis
Since autism spectrum disorder can impact a child’s life in so many ways, it is important to diagnose it as early as possible. The earlier the diagnosis, the earlier intervention can begin. Diagnosis can sometimes be made as early as two years of age. Earlier intervention can result in improved intellectual abilities and better language control. Completing It can also help them develop more effective communication and motor control skills. With early intervention, some symptoms can even be reduced as the child grows older. An early diagnosis of autism starts by taking your child in for regular checkups with a pediatrician. Children are usually assessed in the form of developmental screenings at ages 9, 18 and 24 to 30 months to be sure they are reaching their developmental milestones.
Developmental milestones include things such as smiling, mimicking sounds, walking and speaking. If there is a developmental delay, the pediatrician may refer you to a specialist for further testing to determine if there is a diagnosis of autism. Here are some things you can expect in an autism exam and what you can do to prepare your child.
Some Exams Are Conducted By A Team Of Specialists
The specialist you are referred to will depend upon what symptoms or developmental delays your child is experiencing. These specialists could include a developmental pediatrician, psychologist, neurologist, physical therapist, speech therapist or a hearing or vision doctor, all of which may be vital to a proper diagnosis of autism.
It Includes Play-Based Assessments And Cognitive Tests
In a play-based assessment, the doctor might play with or talk to your child while observing his or her behavior and social interaction. The doctor may also administer tests to assess your child’s communication and learning skills.
Parents Need To Fill Out Checklists
The checklists you will fill out will ask you to identify whether or not certain symptoms or behaviors are present. These questions can help determine if your child’s symptoms indicate autism or a different disorder so that you can be referred to the proper specialists. One checklist that is widely used is the M-CHAT: Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, which consists of 20 questions related to behavior.
It Can Take More Than One Appointment To Complete
Depending on how many specialists you are referred to and how extensive the testing needs to be, it could take more than one appointment to reach a conclusive diagnosis of autism. After all, you want to make sure specialists are thorough.
Doctors Will Ask For Your Child’s Medical Records
Your child’s medical history plays an important role in determining the diagnosis so be sure to have it on hand for each doctor you are referred to.
How To Prepare Your Child For An Exam
Identify Key Languages That Will Be Used In The Exam
Children with autism may display certain, unique language patterns. They may repeat words or phrases or talk extensively in a monologue about one subject that interests them. They may display nonverbal communication such as avoiding eye contact or being unable to use gestures. Be sure to let the specialists know about the unique ways in which your child tends to communicate before the exam.
Help Ease The Tension And Pressure
There are several things you can do to prepare your child physically and mentally for an autism test. Preparing ahead of time can help ease the pressure, stress and anxiety that can come along with a change in your child’s daily routine.
Encourage Your Child To Focus On Areas Or Subjects They Find Interesting
While helping your child prepare or study for the exam, encourage them to focus on subjects they find interesting, but discourage them from bringing items related to intense interests to the exam unless they are relevant to the test questions. Try studying with your child. Find out when, where and how your child prefers to study and which study tools they find the most helpful. Do they prefer to review alone or with someone? Is it more comfortable for them to study in the familiar surroundings of home or in a favorite public place such as a park or library? Are memory aids, pictures, notes or flashcards helpful? Your child may prefer to study using text along with illustrations or by listening to recordings. Writing down study notes on paper and using colored pens to underline, highlight or circle ideas and phrases to make them stand out can also be helpful. All of these observations will be important in helping a specialist determine if a diagnosis of autism is accurate.
Ask Children What Time They Feel Comfortable To Take The Exam
Take steps to help your child feel more comfortable with the testing process and cope with challenges they might face during the exam such as staying focused, reducing anxiety and understanding exam questions. Try asking your child what time of day they prefer to take the exam. You might talk to them about what they might see, hear and encounter on testing day. Will there be a long car drive or a short one? Will you walk into a large building with lots of people? Will there be a long hallway, a stairway or an elevator? To help motivate your child to take the test, explain to them the importance of the exams and how they can be useful in showing others what they are knowledgeable in or good at. Visual supports or graphics put together on a piece of paper that depict the tasks for that day can offer some comfort to your child. These pictures create an illustration of that day’s activities. For example, a picture of your child’s favorite breakfast meal can represent eating breakfast the morning of the test. A toothbrush can represent brushing their teeth. These illustrations can provide a tangible, visual structure that the child can then refer to frequently. This can make the tasks for exam day more predictable and help alleviate the anxiety that can come along with the disruption to their daily routine.
Relaxation Techniques Can Help Ease The Tension
While waiting to take the exam, try some relaxation techniques with your child. You can do these together. Try some deep breathing exercises. Encourage your child to visualize walking through a peaceful scene. Maybe your child loves to visit the ocean or go on nature walks. You can imagine taking a walk together somewhere pleasant. Tensing and relaxing different muscle groups can also help release tension. Maybe your child feels more at ease listening to music, reading a book, playing a game or looking at pictures while spending time in the waiting area. If your child is prone to becoming overstimulated when they are in an unfamiliar environment, it can also be helpful to find a waiting area with a smaller room or fewer people.
Encouraging Physical Activities Before The Exam Can Reduce Stress
Encourage some physical activity before the exam. This can help your child release some tension and anxiety. On the big day, try to maintain as normal a routine for your child as possible and allow plenty of time to get ready so you are not in a rush on the way to the appointment. Be sure your child eats a good meal before the exam and that they get adequate rest the night before. You might even bring along a nourishing snack in case your child gets hungry while waiting for the exam to begin.
While it can be a stressful experience, full of anxiety for you as a parent, it’s important to take your child to a specialist early if you think a diagnosis of autism might be appropriate. You won’t know how to proceed until you have the answers you need.
If you have a child who has received a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, there are people in your community who can help you move forward. We know how important a caring group of people is to a child’s development. At Lexington Services, we can help you maintain important continuity with your child’s care by offering quality services you need in one place.
At Lexington we can help your child have a brighter future. Contact our staff today for more information.
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