If you think your child might have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), you’re likely wondering about your next steps. You probably have a sense that you should talk to your doctor, but most parents want to know what to expect right away.
Fortunately, there are tools that medical professionals can use to accurately diagnose your child with autism. Let’s take a closer look at the process for identifying ASD in kids.
How Autism Gets Diagnosed
There’s no lab test your doctor can use to determine if your child has autism. Instead, autism diagnoses rely on developmental monitoring. Usually, this starts with both your doctor checking in with your child and you monitoring at home.
To start, your doctor will likely ask you a range of questions about your child and their behaviors. They may also engage with your child and determine if their behaviors and responses seem in line with what’s expected for a child of that age.
To a large extent, though, identifying autism happens at home.
Monitoring at Home
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that parents screen their children for ASD from birth until the age of five. Specifically, you should be looking at how your child:
What, exactly, should you be checking? That depends on your child’s age. At-home monitoring for ASD means looking to see if your child is in line with all or most developmental milestones. The CDC has a robust resource you can use to see average milestones based on age.
Here’s a quick overview of many of those milestones:
- 2 months: Looks at your face, makes sounds beyond crying, responds to you (e.g., smiles when you smile, calms down when picked up)
- 4 months: Coos and chuckles, turns toward your voice, holds a toy, brings their hand toward their mouth
- 6 months: Laughs, squeals, seems to know familiar faces, reaches for things, rolls from their tummy to their back
- 9 months: Has varied facial expressions, lifts arms to ask to be picked up, responds when you say their name, gets into and maintains a sitting position alone
- 12 months: Waves, looks for hidden objects, starts speaking (e.g., “mama,” “dada”), tried to stand and walk
- 15 months: Shows affection for you or loved items (e.g., a stuffed animal), has a growing vocabulary, points and gestures, feeds themself with their hands
- 18 months: Has at least three words besides “mama” and “dada,” mimics you or other children, follows simple directions, walks
- 2 years: Reacts to your emotions, says two words together, uses a spoon, points to things when you ask (e.g., “where is the cat?”)
- 30 months: Follows simple instructions, has a vocabulary of around 50 words and uses two or more together regularly, plays pretend, has some dexterity to turn pages, get dressed, etc.
Many kids can get an accurate ASD diagnosis around age two. Monitor their milestones and if something seems amiss, talk to your doctor.
Getting a Formal Evaluation
To get a proper autism diagnosis, you should get a formal evaluation from a knowledgeable ASD professional, like a child psychologist or a developmental pediatrician. Your doctor should be able to connect you to someone who has the necessary training.
That person may use screening tools like a test your child takes or a questionnaire you fill out as their parent. The diagnostic process gets tailored to your child based on their age and abilities.
This process tells you more than whether or not your child has autism. It can also help you get a clearer idea of their strengths and challenges.
For more help there, consider an applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy-based preschool program for your child. At Stride Autism Centers, we personalize our care for your child to help them reach their unique milestones. To learn more, get in touch today.