How to Find the Right Provider to Diagnose Your Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Getting an autism diagnosis for your child can be a challenging process that requires the expertise of a team of qualified healthcare providers and therapists. With the right diagnosis, you can ensure your child gets access to the support, resources, and therapies they need to thrive. This comprehensive guide will walk you through how autism spectrum disorder is diagnosed, who is involved, key considerations for finding the right provider to Diagnose, and how to access care.

How to Find the Right Provider to Diagnose Your Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder
How to Find the Right Provider to Diagnose Your Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability characterized by challenges with social skills, speech and nonverbal communication, and restricted/repetitive behaviors. Autism exists on a spectrum, meaning symptoms and support needs vary widely from person to person.

Some key signs of autism in young children include:

  • Not responding to their name by 12 months
  • Little or no eye contact
  • Delayed speech development
  • Not pointing or gesturing by 12 months
  • Repetitive movements like flapping hands or rocking
  • Unusual and intense reactions to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, lights, or colors

Early screening and diagnosis is key, as early intervention can greatly improve outcomes. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening for autism at 18 and 24 months.

Who Diagnoses Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Because there is no single medical test for autism, diagnosis requires input from a multidisciplinary team of specialists trained in assessing autism. Your child’s providers may include:

Developmental Pediatrician

These are doctors who specialize in childhood development and developmental disorders like autism. They have extensive training to diagnose autism spectrum disorders.

Child Psychologist

Psychologists have doctoral degrees and specialized training in autism symptoms, testing, diagnosis, and treatment. They provide counseling and therapy but don’t prescribe medication.

Psychiatrist

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental health. They can provide therapy, prescribe medications, and diagnose conditions like autism.

Speech, Occupational, Physical, and Behavioral Therapists

Though not doctors, therapists play a key role in autism evaluations. They assess speech, coordination, movement, behavior, and life skills through play-based tests.

Neurologist

A neurologist may be consulted to rule out disorders like epilepsy that can have symptoms similar to autism.

How is Autism Diagnosed?

There is no single medical test for autism. Instead, diagnosis relies on a combination of:

  • Developmental screening tests
  • Interviews with parents about the child’s symptoms and development
  • Direct observation of the child
  • Standardized autism diagnostic tests

Some examples of diagnostic tests used include:

  • Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS): The doctor observes the child and interacts with them while looking for key social and communication behaviors associated with autism.
  • Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R): In this structured interview, parents are asked detailed questions about the child’s development, behaviors, and symptoms.
  • Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ): Parents complete this questionnaire about the child’s communication skills and social interactions.
  • Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS): Parents, teachers, and clinicians complete this 15-item rating scale assessing the child’s behaviors.
  • Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT): Widely used screening test for autism symptoms in young children 18-24 months.

Diagnosis also relies heavily on the clinical expertise and judgment of your doctor in interpreting all of these results together. There is no single test result that can definitively diagnose autism.

Key Considerations in Finding the Right Diagnostic Provider

Choosing the right provider to diagnose your child can ensure you get an accurate diagnosis quickly so early intervention can begin. Here are some tips:

  • Get a referral from your pediatrician: Ask who they recommend and if they can help get an appointment scheduled faster.
  • Proximity: Find providers close enough for regular appointments during the evaluation process.
  • Insurance coverage: Verify the provider accepts your insurance to reduce costs.
  • Expertise with autism: Look for specialists like developmental pediatricians with extensive autism training.
  • Multidisciplinary options: Seek a diagnostic center with access to a team of providers to get a comprehensive evaluation.
  • Supportive experience: Choose providers who make your child feel comfortable, listen to your concerns, and have a caring bedside manner.
  • Culturally competent care: Seek providers with experience diagnosing autism in a diverse range of children, including girls, minorities, and non-native English speakers.
  • Speed: Prioritize providers that can diagnose your child quickly, as early intervention is so important.

Accessing an Autism Evaluation and Diagnosis

Here are some steps to access autism diagnostic services for your child:

1. Discuss your concerns with your pediatrician.

Share specific examples of developmental delays or unusual behaviors you’ve noticed. Your pediatrician can make referrals, provide screenings, and help expedite appointments.

2. Call your health insurance company.

Ask about your autism diagnostic coverage and which providers are in-network. Get pre-authorization if needed.

3. Contact local autism advocacy groups.

They may offer free screenings or know of affordable diagnostic options and financial assistance programs.

4. Call providers directly and get on waiting lists if needed.

Be persistent and call back often to check for earlier openings.

5. Attend all appointments and complete requested evaluations.

Provide requested medical records, test results, or questionnaires ahead if possible.

6. Follow up on next steps after diagnosis.

Discuss recommended therapies, school accommodations, and other services your child needs to thrive.

Early Intervention Services After an Autism Diagnosis

An autism diagnosis makes your child eligible for free early intervention services until age 3 under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These can include:

  • Speech, occupational, physical, and behavioral therapies
  • Special education preschools with small classes and visual supports
  • Sensory integration, music, and play therapy
  • Parent education and training programs
  • Assistance paying for services if needed

Studies show starting ABA therapy, speech therapy, and other interventions before age 3 leads to significantly improved outcomes for later learning, independence, social skills, and quality of life.

Finding the Right ABA Therapy Provider

One of the most effective evidence-based interventions for autism is applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy. This can take many forms, but certified ABA therapists use positive reinforcement and repeated practice to teach communication, social, academic, motor, and adaptive living skills.

Here are some tips for choosing the right ABA therapy provider:

  • Credentials: Seek Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) with master’s degrees and intensive training.
  • Experience: Choose an agency with extensive expertise providing ABA therapy to children your child’s age.
  • Customized: Look for fully customized 1:1 ABA therapy developed specifically to meet your child’s needs.
  • Comprehensive: Opt for an agency that provides center-based and in-home ABA and collaborates with your child’s school.
  • Intensive: Research shows 25-40 hours per week of ABA therapy provides the best outcomes.
  • Parent training: Select a provider that trains you in ABA therapy techniques to use at home.
  • Fun: Look for ABA therapy using play, music, and activities your child enjoys to motivate them.
  • Continuity: Choose an agency that minimizes therapist turnover and rotations.

In-Home ABA Therapy with Jade ABA

Jade ABA offers premier ABA therapy from a team of highly qualified BCBAs and therapists in Maryland. With an emphasis on family-centered care, they develop fully customized ABA programs tailored to each child’s unique needs, strengths, challenges, and interests.

Their 1:1 ABA therapy uses motivation, consistency, and positive reinforcement to target skill development in:

  • Communication & language
  • Social skills
  • Behavior challenges
  • Cognitive, academic, and life skills
  • Sensory processing
  • Motor skills like writing

As an agency focused on client experience and continuity of care, their therapists get to know each child deeply and work closely with parents as part of the treatment team. This fosters an exceptionally supportive therapy environment.

Jade ABA also partners closely with schools to ensure consistency between home and classroom ABA programming. They offer center-based services, social skills groups, parent education, and more.

With Jade ABA’s early intensive ABA intervention, your child can develop the skills they need to successfully integrate into school and meaningfully participate in family and community. They’ll gain confidence, independence, and the support they need to thrive.

Get Started with In-Home ABA Therapy

Reach out today to speak with a Jade ABA representative about getting started with top-quality, in-home ABA therapy tailored to your child’s needs.

You can also explore their website at www.jadeaba.org to learn more about their ABA services, therapists, and therapy centers.

Call (410) 616-0901 or email info@jadeaba.org to take the first step toward your child’s brightest future. Jade ABA looks forward to partnering with you and supporting your child’s optimal development.

References

  1. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 5th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing; 2013.
  2. Zwaigenbaum L, Bauman ML, Stone WL, et al. Early Identification of Autism Spectrum Disorder: Recommendations for Practice and Research. Pediatrics. 2015;136 Suppl 1(S10-40). doi:10.1542/peds.2014-3667C
  3. Hyde KK, Healy O, Leader G, Kenny N. Autism spectrum disorders: Contemporary assessment and intervention. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2020;118:540-554. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2020.07.017
  4. Rogers SJ, Vismara L. Evidence-Based Comprehensive Treatments for Early Autism. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology. 2008;37(1):8-38. doi:10.1080/15374410701817808
  5. Peters-Scheffer N, Didden R, Korzilius H, Matson J. Cost comparison of early intensive behavioral intervention and treatment as usual for children with autism spectrum disorder in the Netherlands. Research in Developmental Disabilities. 2012;33(6):1763-1772. doi:10.1016/j.ridd.2012.04.006
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