Dr. Mariam Haider and Dr. Tanya Soomro list down important members of the team that is responsible for screening autism. These members can include paediatrician, psychologist, speech therapist etc.
When you feel you need advice on your child’s development or talk to a professional about your concerns, go to your choice of health care professional (family doctor, pediatrician). Bring the milestones checklist with you and include specific examples. Have an in-depth discussion with them regarding your concerns.
If your doctor feels like your concerns may be valid, they can direct you to a specialist who can then further assist you in the process of Autism screening.
All children should receive autism screening at 18 and 24 months of age. These screenings consist of certain checklist of questions used for screening children between 16 and 30 months of age to assess their risk for autism spectrum disorder. You can find the checklist here.
Before you go to your appointment, fill out the questionnaire and bring it to your doctor. There is also a list of general questions about your concerns that you can complete and bring with you. Your doctor will ask about your specific concerns, and then use them to determine the next step of the process.
If the questionnaire indicates your child has some signs of autism, it will be important to complete the second step of the screening, the Follow-Up Interview. This will require your doctor to ask you further questions in person. Not all children who show signs of autism after the first step will have autism. For some children, this screener also picks up other developmental delays, such as speaking late. Even though these may not seem as serious as autism, they need to be addressed by professionals in due time.
Formal Evaluation of Autism
Your general physician (doctor) might say that your child needs a more formal evaluation to learn more about how they are learning to talk, interact, act, play, learn and move. This will be a much longer visit. It is typically done by a specialist in the area of child development but may involve several different specialists.
Your child can be referred for an evaluation or additional testing by your doctor if they deem it necessary. Some important points to remember are:
- A hearing test referral is made to check concerns related to language development, speech, and hearing difficulties. This is mostly done by an audiologist.
- A cognitive evaluation (or developmental assessment) is performed to measure verbal and nonverbal abilities of a child. This should ideally be conducted by a psychologist.
- A neurological evaluation is performed to test for problems like brain injury, seizure disorder, self-injury and sleep or eating disturbances.
- A speech-language-communication evaluation is performed on children who have trouble with communication, both verbal and nonverbal. This is usually performed by a speech-language psychologist or pathologist.
- A sensory-motor skills evaluation is performed when a child shows difficulty in movement and/or sensory responses. It is done by a physical or occupational therapist.
- No meaningful two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating) by 24 months
- Any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age
- Does not respond to name by 12 months
If you are referred to a specialist for a diagnostic assessment of autism, they will provide you with a written report of your child’s evaluation. This should include information on your child’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as general level of developmental functioning.