Diagnosis of Autism

There are different types or degrees of autism in children that vary depending on the severity of the developmental disorder. The following conditions fall within the autism spectrum disorder:

  • Asperger Syndrome: With symptoms similar to autism but with no language development problems
  • Rett Syndrome: Occurs mainly in females and is very different from autism
  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder: A rare disorder where the child loses all learned skills by the age of ten
  • PDD-NOS or Pervasive Developmental Disorder: Not Otherwise Specified also known as Atypical autism

Diagnosis of autism is not a simple process. Doctors and psychologists often use a questionnaire or any other screening test to collect more conclusive information about the child's behavior patterns and autistic symptoms. Screening tests and evaluation tools could rely completely on the parent’s observations or more often a combination of parental reports and observations of the child. If these tests indicate a possibility of autism spectrum disorder, more comprehensive testing and evaluation is required.

At this point, a team of neurologists, psychiatrists, audiologists, speech and occupational therapists may work along with the doctor or psychologist to reach an accurate diagnosis of autism. This is generally done through language testing, cognitive tests, and neurological assessments.

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Children With Disabilities. Technical report: the pediatrician's role in the diagnosis and management of autistic spectrum disorder in children. Pediatrics. 2001;107(5) . Available at: www.pediatrics.org/cgi/content/full/107/5/e85
  2. Scott M. Myers, Chris Plauché Johnson the Council on Children With Disabilities Management of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders Pediatrics 2007 120: 1162-1182.