How is Autism Diagnosed?

When diagnosing autism in especially young children, the medical profession still relies upon the skills of highly trained behavioral specialists and psychologists. To date, there is no purely physical test that can determine whether an individual has an autism spectrum disorder. However, these disorders present with clear behavioral markers, by which parents, physicians, and psychologists can determine whether a child requires special intervention. In the article below, we’ll explore how autism is diagnosed and what medical science may offer for the future.

Catching It Early

While the medical profession takes into account that, upon occasion, adults with ASD may live much of their lives in an undiagnosed state, they feel diagnosing autism as early as possible offers individuals with one of the disorders the best chance of living satisfying lives. Because there is not yet a physical marker that can be quantified in blood or tissue, parents and the medical community must work together.

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If parents notice unusual behavior in their toddler—failing to make eye-contact, refusing to play with or playing with toys in an unusual manner, or non-responsiveness to their names—they can avail themselves of behavioral checklists. If a child meets the criteria listed, parents may elect to review the Modified Checklist of Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) prior to consulting with a specialist. During the initial consultation, the M-CHAT will be a primary guide to determining the best course of action.

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Human Variations on a Theme

While it’s important to note that all humans develop and experience reality in slightly varying ways, certain aspects of our ability to connect as social animals are established during the first 36 months. These are known as milestones, and will be tested during routine visits with a family pediatrician. Whether unusual developments are noted by parents or the physician, at this point, a team of specialists may be consulted. Genetic testing or additional behavioral observations may be recommended in addition to standard therapies.

While most individuals with ASD are diagnosed in infancy or childhood, in some cases, young adults and mature individuals may not receive the treatment and assistance they need. In such cases, specialists conduct extensive personal observation and perceptual testing to determine the precise nature of individual needs. That’s because, while all manifestations of autism are now arranged along a spectrum, rather than being classified as discrete disorders, several of these disorders do manifest specifically and call for tailored therapeutic approaches.

The positive news for individuals diagnosed with ASD and their families is that they need not face it alone. The treatment and support community offers a network of resources and information. Plus, affirmative diagnosis of ASD entails a host of therapeutic resources, which may not have been available or known to parents prior to confirming that their child has ASD. It seems rather appropriate that the solutions for assisting these individuals should be deeply socialized—involving community structures, support networks, and the formation of new interpersonal bonds.

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Autistic Spectrum Disorders deeply impact the ability of an individual to socialize normally or to gather information via human sociability. Although geneticists have identified specific gene sequences that may be tied to both human adaptability and the appearance of autism, medical science is far from developing a test or therapies related to these insights. Instead, the therapeutic community has devoted much of its collective energies to developing reliable and compassionate methods of teaching and treatment. These teaching techniques follow behavioral analysis and personal observation, which are still the most reliable methods for diagnosing autism in individuals of any age.