Important Examinations and Tests for Autism Diagnosis

Important Examinations and Tests for Autism Diagnosis

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) as well as autism, both are general terms representing a set of complex disorders related to brain development. The characteristics of these disorders, in varying extents, are repetitive behaviors, difficulty in social interaction, and non-verbal and verbal communication. A few years ago, all the autism disorders were grouped into a single umbrella diagnosis of ASD. Before that, these disorders were classified as distinct subtypes, like Asperger syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), childhood disintegrative disorder, and autistic disorder.

ASD can be linked with issues of physical health like gastrointestinal and sleep disturbances, difficulty in attention and motor coordination, and intellectual disability. Some individuals with ASD often excel in fields like art, music and visual skills.

 It’s recommended by American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to screen kids for autism in the well-child visits scheduled regularly. This policy makes it easy for doctors to identify the signs and symptoms of autism in advance. Early diagnosis followed by treatment can be helpful for children to reach their true potential.

 When parents recognize any developmental delay in a kid, further tests can help the pediatrician or doctor figure out if the issue relates to autism, another type of ASD or any condition having similar symptoms, like avoidant personality disorder or language delays. In case the primary care provider of your child is not equipped with specific experience or training in developmental issues, he/she may refer your kid to some specialist like child psychiatrist, psychologist, speech therapist, psychiatrist, or developmental pediatrician, for conducting additional tests. Some pediatricians get trained in pediatrics medical courses to understand ASD and related developmental disorders better.

 Below listed are some important additional tests and exams for children with autism:

 1. Behavioral Assessments:

 In Behavioral Assessments, different questionnaires and guidelines are employed to help a medical practitioner find out the kind of developmental delay the child suffers from. These are:

  • Medical history – In the interview of medical history, the doctor or pediatrician asks some general questions regarding a kid’s development, like whether the kid shows things to parents by pointing towards the things. Young autistic kids often point towards things they want, however they don’t point for showing the item to parents and then check out to watch whether parents are looking at that object that is being pointed out.
  • Diagnostic guidelines – The guidelines for autism diagnosis have been established by American Association of Childhood and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). The criteria is set up so that a doctor or pediatrician can assess the behavior of a kid relating to autism’s core symptoms.
  • Clinical observations – The pediatrician may wish to observe carefully the child with developmental delays in different circumstances. The doctor may ask the parents to determine whether or not certain behaviors are completely usual for the kid in those situations.
  • Intelligence and developmental tests – It’s also recommended by AACAP that tests should be given for evaluating whether or not the developmental delays of a kid affect the kid’s ability of thinking and making decisions.

 2. Laboratory Tests and Physical Assessments:

 Some other tests can be employed for determining whether some physical issue may be responsible for causing the symptoms. Such tests are:

 Physical exam, which includes height, weight, and head circumference measurements, to figure out whether the kid’s growth pattern is normal.

 Hearing tests, for finding out whether hearing troubles are responsible for the developmental delays, particularly the issues related to language use and social skills.

 Test for lead poisoning, particularly in case a condition known as pica is present. In this condition, an individual craves for things which are not foods, like old paint flecks or dirt. Kids having developmental delays generally continue to put substances in their mouth, even after that stage is over for normally developing kids. Such practice may cause lead poisoning that needs to be detected and treated at the earliest.

 Some other lab tests can be conducted under specific situations. Such tests include:

1. Chromosomal Analysis – This may be conducted if there is a presence of intellectual disability, or family history consisting of intellectual disability. For instance, fragile x syndrome can be identified through a chromosomal analysis. The fragile x syndrome causes various problems of under-normal intelligence and autism-like behaviors.

2. Electroencephalograph (EEG) – EEG is conducted if symptoms of seizures are there, like history of having staring spells, or in case an individual reverts to a behavior or lower maturity i.e., developmental regression.

3. MRI – This may be conducted in case there are indications or signs of variations in the brain structure.

Early Detection:

 All pediatricians and doctors who see kids and infants for the well-child visits need to watch for the early signs and symptoms of developmental problems. Tools for developmental screening like Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) or Ages and Stages Questionnaire, can aid in assessing behavior.

 In case a doctor finds the below mentioned obvious developmental delay signs, the child needs to be evaluated immediately:

  • Absence of any pointing, babbling, or other kinds of gestures by the age of 12 months
  • Absence of any single words by the age of 16 months
  • Absence of any two-word phrases by the age of 24 months, except repeated phrases (echolalia)
  • Loss of any social or language skills at any age

 Pediatricians should equip themselves well with knowledge about the early autism signs. Taking pediatrics medical courses on autism and related disorders, often helps pediatricians know the early signs and symptoms of autism better, and get a better understanding of the field of autism. Many of the pediatricians of Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs (MAPS) are Board Certified, and have vast experience in treating children with autism and related disorders.

If the screening tests don’t show any obvious developmental delay signs or any unusual signs, most children and infants don’t require any further evaluation up to the upcoming well-child visit.

However, kids with an autistic sibling should be continuously monitored closely, as they have a heightened risk of autism as well as other developmental issues.

If behavior, learning, or socialization issues occur in an individual at any age or at any time, the individual should be evaluated too.

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