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The Process of Diagnosing Autism

Aug 3, 2023 | Autism

In the last few decades, autism has been diagnosed at a quicker rate than ever before. Since its original definition in 1943, the disorder has changed drastically. Now, we are seeing more people, especially children, diagnosed with this than ever before. This is not to say that the rate of the disorder is drastically increasing, but rather the testing has evolved considerably. 

By definition, autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects everything from communication to social interaction and behavior. It typically appears in early childhood, and while there is no cure for autism, early intervention can significantly improve outcomes for individuals with the condition. Diagnosis is a critical step in getting the appropriate care and support in place.

Screening for Autism

Screening is usually the very first step in the diagnostic process for autism. Screening tools are designed to identify individuals who are at risk of having the condition and who should be referred for further evaluation. There are several widely used screening tools for autism, including the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (more commonly referred to as the M-CHAT-R), the Social Communication Questionnaire, and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule. These tools are typically administered by a healthcare professional or educator and involve a series of questions or observations about the individual’s behavior and development.

The M-CHAT-R is a parent-report questionnaire that asks about specific behaviors associated with autism, like social communication and sensory processing. It was designed to be administered to children between 16 and 30 months of age, and a positive result indicates a need for further evaluation. The SCQ is a similar parent-report questionnaire that is designed for children between 4 and 18 years of age. It asks about social communication, restricted and repetitive behaviors, and other behaviors commonly associated with autism. The ADOS is an observational assessment that is typically administered by a clinician. It involves a series of structured activities and interactions that are designed to elicit behaviors associated with autism.

While screening tools can be helpful in identifying individuals who may be at risk of autism, they are not diagnostic in and of themselves. Positive screening results require further evaluation and assessment to confirm a diagnosis.

Diagnostic Assessment

The diagnostic process for autism typically involves a comprehensive assessment that includes clinical interviews, observation, and standardized testing.

Usually, a clinical interview with the individual and their caregivers takes place at the beginning of the process. The interview covers a range of topics, including the individual’s developmental history and behavioral and sensory issues. 

Standardized testing is another typical component of the diagnostic process. There are several standardized tests used to assess autism, including the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised, the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-2, and the Childhood Autism Rating Scale. These tests are designed to measure specific behaviors and symptoms associated with autism and are often used in conjunction with other assessment methods.

The ADI-R is a semi-structured interview that is typically administered to parents or caregivers of children with autism. It covers a range of topics related to social interaction, communication, and behavior and provides a standardized method for assessing these areas. 

ADOS-2 is an observational assessment that is typically administered by a trained clinician. This test involves a series of structured activities and interactions that are designed to elicit behaviors associated with autism. 

Finally, CARS is a simple rating scale that is designed to assess the severity of autism symptoms. CARS involves ratings of social interaction, communication, and behavior and is often used in conjunction with other assessment methods.

In summary, autism testing requires a trained professional to assess a range of factors in order to be successful. While screening tools can help identify individuals who may be at risk of autism, a comprehensive diagnostic assessment is needed to confirm a diagnosis. 

New Dimensions Provides Psychological Testing for Autism

If you are looking for answers, New Dimensions can help.  New Dimensions provides psychological testing for autism, ADHD, and other mental health disorders.  New Dimensions also offers intensive treatment programs for adolescents and adults.  To learn more about our services, contact us at 1-800-685-9796 or visit our website


Keywords: Autism; Diagnosing autism; Testing for autism; Autism testing