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How Is Autism Diagnosed?

Researchers have found that early diagnosis of autism is very important. The earlier a child is diagnosed with autism, the earlier he or she can start getting help from interventions and therapies.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any medical tests that can be used to diagnose autism. In order to be diagnosed accurately with autism, a child’s communication, behavior, and developmental levels have to be observed.

It is important that a medical specialist or someone who has experience in diagnosing autism makes these observations.

Ideally, a child should be evaluated by a team of professionals that may include a neurologist, psychologist, developmental pediatrician, speech and language therapist, learning consultant, or other professional knowledgeable about autism.

Because people with other disorders may have similar behaviors as people with autism, a doctor may have to do various medical tests to rule out other possible causes.

In the US, there is a manual called the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition), which is published by the American Psychiatric Association that medical professionals can use to help diagnose autism.

Some other tools that have been developed to help doctors and other professionals make an accurate diagnosis of autism include:

  • Autism Diagnosis Interview – Revised (ADI-R),
  • Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule – Generic(ADOS-G),
  • Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS),
  • Gilliam Autism Rating Scale – Second Edition (GARS-2)

NOTE: Being observed for a short period of time in a single setting can’t give a true picture of a child’s behaviors or abilities. It is very important that the professional diagnosing autism be able to distinguish autism from other conditions so that they can give an accurate diagnosis. That way, the child being diagnosed can be given the proper treatment plan.