Fact sheet on diagnosis of Autism, an Autism Spectrum Disorder


Parents are in a unique position to note potential problems for their children. They know the nuances of their behavior, emotions and personalities for many hours, day after day while health professionals can only observe your child for a few hours at a time. It is normal to be concerned about delays in your child's development. Issues will emerge and be resolved with time, but in some cases there will be persistent delays in your child's development that will cause greater concern. In these cases, it may be worth looking at an assessment to see if your child has autism, Asperger's syndrome or another developmental disorder.


Who conducts assessment and diagnosis of autism and Asperger's?

This will vary from country to country. Health professionals involved may include:

• Family doctor who can make a referral
• Pediatrician

• Psychiatrist

• Child psychologist

• Speech therapist

• Multidisciplinary team (combination of the above).


what happens in assessment of autism or asperger's syndrome?

In most cases, the process begins a screening process. This may simply be discussing the concerns of the parents, or it may also involve observation of the child. There will be a range of questions about the parents' family backgrounds. A lot of information will be wanted on the child's personality, eating habits, sleep, school performance, play with other children, development and so on. Looking back over photo albums and family movies will help parents to remember details of their child's development at different ages.


Screening does not provide a diagnosis but can reveal the need for referral for a diagnosis to be made. These screening methods may not identify children with mild Autism Spectrum Disorder, such as those with high-functioning autism or Asperger syndrome. The diagnosis procedure should be detailed so that it can accurately diagnose or rule out an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Diagnosis may be done by a multidisciplinary team which could include a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a neurologist and a speech therapist.


As possible signs of Asperger's and autism can overlap with many other disorders and conditions, there may be medical tests required to rule out these other possibilities. Assessment often involves watching a child interact with family members, and playing with various toys and games.


If a child is on the more severe end of the autism spectrum, a diagnosis of autism or other developmental disorder may be reached quickly. In other cases, further assessment will be required. This may involve a health professional seeing the child in the home environment, pre-school or in sessions with other children.



Working out whether a child has autism, Asperger's syndrome or other developmental disorder can be a time-consuming complex process. The typical signs of these disorders can be caused by a range of environmental factors, other disorders and medical conditions. An accurate diagnosis will ensure appropriate intervention so patience is recommended if it takes time to get an answer.


screening and diagnostic tools

Developmental disorders such as autism and Asperger's are under increasing research. The classification and diagnosis of Pervasive Developmental Disorders are being reviewed over the years. There are various diagnostic tools used for autism and Asperger's, the most common of which is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV. Other screening or diagnostic tests include:
• ICD World Health Organization Diagnostic Criteria

• Autistic Diagnostic Interview - Revised (ADI-R)
• Szatmari Diagnostic Criteria
• Gillberg Diagnostic Criteria
• Attwood & Gray Discovery Criteria.

• Checklist of Autism in Toddlers (CHAT)

• Screening Tool for Autism in Two-year-olds (STAT)

• Childhood Asperger Syndrome Test (CAST)

• Autism Spectrum Screening Questionnaire (ASSQ)

• Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) (children 4 years of age and older)

• Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS).


If your child receives a diagnosis

It can be a huge shock for parents, even when they suspected their child may have had autism or Asperger's syndrome. Hearing this for the first time can make it very difficult to get information on what you should do next. If you need to time to come to terms with your child's diagnosis, ask the health professionals involved if you can come back another time to get recommendations on what further steps you can take for your child.


Further information can be viewed at the following pages:

• My child's been diagnosed with autism - what do I do now?

• Early intervention.


close fact sheet on Autism diagnosis here

Click here for the full range of autism and Asperger's fact sheets at www.autism-help.org
This autism fact sheet is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation. It is derivative of autism and Aspergers--related articles at http://en.wikipedia.org

Assessment and diagnosis of Asperger syndrome or Autistic disorder is vital for early intervention with these developmental disorders