If you have a child who is showing signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it may be difficult to know what your next steps are or where to turn for answers. If you are looking to diagnose autism, it is not as easy as receiving a simple “yes-or-no” test from your pediatrician.
As a parent, where do you start?
If you are a parent, one of the best first steps is the process is completing the online M-CHAT (Modified Checklist of Autism in Toddlers) questionnaire. This is a checklist designed for parents of children between the ages of 16 and 30 months old, which is available entirely online. The M-CHAT allows parents to assess whether or not the child is at risk of developing autism spectrum disorder by asking relevant questions about developmental skills (e.g. communication or language skills). This questionnaire is scientifically proven to provide accurate results for parents, so you can be assured that this is a helpful tool. The M-CHAT was also developed by a clinical psychologist and neuropsychologists.
Role of pediatricians
As your child progresses in their early childhood development, it is important for their pediatrician to assess whether the child is meeting the developmental milestones at the typical rate. When children are between 18 and 24 months old, the American Academy of Pediatrics also suggests that all parents have their children screened for autism. It is important to detect early signs of autism, as early intervention can make the world of a difference in children with autism. Identifying developmental challenges early can help children to build positive behaviors in ABA therapy or a therapeutic preschool program, before behaviors become problematic. If your child’s pediatrician believes they may be on the autism spectrum, there are specific professionals who can diagnose autism.
Professionals who can diagnose autism
Your child’s pediatrician may recommend that you receive a diagnosis from a behavioral pediatrician, clinical psychologist, or neurologist who is trained in providing autism diagnoses. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, more commonly referred to as the DSM-5, also outlines the criteria for an autism diagnosis. In order to provide your child with the most comprehensive care possible, professionals with a range of expertise may be involved in the diagnostic and treatment process. This multidisciplinary approach is helpful in determining the full scope of developmental skills that should be addressed in ABA therapy or a therapeutic preschool program.
When can a child be diagnosed?
While a child might receive a diagnosis of autism as early as 18 months old, more reliable results are typically provided from an evaluation closer to 24 months.
If your child has received a diagnosis of autism, or could simply benefit from additional support with meeting developmental milestones, a therapeutic preschool program could be an excellent fit. These programs, which have a low student-to-teacher ratio provide excellent support for children and emphasize speech, language, behavior, social skills, motor skills, and more. All of these skills are critical in early childhood development, but they may pose difficulties for a child with autism. Since therapeutic preschool programs provide services in a group setting, there are additional opportunities for children who on the autism spectrum to develop their communication and social skills.
If you would like to learn more about CST Academy, our therapeutic preschool program in Chicago, contact us at 773-620-7800 to request more information about our services for children, including ABA therapy, speech therapy, feeding therapy, and occupational therapy.