There are several concerns while labeling a child as autistic. The sooner the diagnosis, the earlier interventions can begin. In fact, evidence gathered over the last 12 years suggest that at least two years of early intervention during preschool years lead to improved outcomes in most of the children having autism spectrum disorder (ASD). As such, proper ASD diagnosis is extremely important before the formative years of a child set in.
A checkup of your child should ideally include a developmental screening. If you are not sure whether your pediatrician does that routinely or not, ask when it is done. A screening for any suspected disorder must include your own observations about your child. This will help in a proper ASD diagnosis. Reviewing family photos, videotapes and baby albums often help parents recall past behaviors and when the child attained certain developmental milestones.
Some of the screening tools for ASD diagnosis exclusively rely on the response of parents to a questionnaire that helps differentiate autistic children from other groups, before two years of age. Pointing and pretend play are two key components of this ASD diagnosis tool. While a screening mechanism doesn’t provide individual diagnosis, it nonetheless serves in assessing whether the child should undergo a more advanced ASD diagnosis. Also, many screening methods may fail to identify kids having Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism.
In recent years, some screening instruments have been developed to diagnose high-functioning autism and Asperger syndrome. These include the Childhood Asperger Syndrome Test (CAST) and the Autism Spectrum Screening Questionnaire (ASSQ). Such instruments reliably identify high-functioning autism in school-age children.
The biggest challenge towards ASD diagnosis is that there’s no definitive medical or pathological test to prove the presence of the disorder. That’s why it’s called a “spectrum”. Detection is entirely symptom based and varies between children. Behavioral and social impairments, and significant language delays, are some of the key indicators to the presence of autism.