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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Autism Diagnosis - Why Is It So Difficult To Get?

An autism diagnosis can still be difficult to obtain despite the numerous studies that have helped people better understand autism. The reason is because there are many factors that need to be considered when making a diagnosis.

First of all, there is more than one type of autism disorder and there are other disabilities that are closely related to autism such as Asperger's Syndrome and Pervasive Development Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). Second, autism is particularly difficult to diagnose in young children, due to the fact that they are still developing speech and reasoning skills.

Therefore, since an autism diagnosis can be a challenge, as a parent, it is essential that you have your child's development, social and communication skills properly evaluated and accessed by a doctor/psychologist/professional specifically experienced in the field of Autism.

How is autism diagnosed?

Usually an autism diagnosis is made when a person shows signs of 6 or more of 12 specific symptoms characteristic of the disorder. The 12 main symptoms are focused in three primary areas

1. Social interaction – People with autism generally have little interest in others and pay little or no attention to those who may be present in the room with them, regardless of their age. They often do not seek comfort if they are troubled or hurt and prefer to be on their own. On the other hand, autistics that do show an interest in social interaction generally have difficulty initiating contact with others and developing friendships. It is also common for to avoid eye contact.

2. Behaviour – Most people with autism find change and new situations incredibly stressful. In addition, they tend to develop unusual rituals or routines and repetitious physical gestures such as rocking back and forth and flapping their hands. This is called 'stimming'.

3. Communication – It is estimated that up to 50% of those diagnosed with autism are unable to develop speech, and those who do will often engage in long conversations based on extremely specific topics of their choice. They often tend to echo words or phrases and have difficulty with pitch and changing the inflection of their tone.

For an autism diagnosis to be made there should be at least 2 symptoms present from social interaction, and at least one symptom from both behaviour and communication . So if a person exhibits some of the symptoms, but does not meet the criteria for an autism disorder, they may then be diagnosed with another similar disability such as Asperger's syndrome or PDD-NOS.

The following are 5 tips parents can keep in mind when talking with a health care provider to ensure their child receives a proper evaluation:

1. Find out everything there is to known about autism – In order to talk to doctors and receive the most effective evaluation of your child, you need to educate yourself about autism and know what to ask. You should never seek an autism diagnosis if you have no idea what the condition is all about. This will make it easier for a doctor to generate a wrong diagnosis.

2. Analyze your child's behaviour – Based on the information regarding social interaction, behaviour and communication above, carefully analyze and make note of your child's behaviour in a journal. Study how your child interacts with others and present your findings to the doctor.

3. Find a health care professional who is experienced with autism diagnosis – It is important to find someone who has had experience in autism diagnosis. You should not rely on the advice or diagnosis of a doctor who is not specialized in this field. The best way to find a doctor is to locate a local support group and find out what doctors/psychologists/professionals other parents take their autistic children to.

4. Ask questions – Asking and answering questions is part of effective evaluation. The more information you obtain and the more detailed answers you can provide your doctor about your child's behaviour helps assist in diagnosis.

5. Get a second opinion – If you don't agree with a doctor's opinion or want more assurance, don't be afraid to question the doctor's diagnosis or treatment recommendations, and seek the advice of another health care provider. Doctors are human beings, and can be wrong.

Keep in mind that evaluation and assessment is not a fast process and is ongoing, even after an autism diagnosis is determined. But initial Early Identification leading to Early Intervention services is more important and crucial.


Important that the doctor/psychologist/professional that you see have been specifically trained and very experienced and highly qualified in the area of AUTISM.