Should my child be evaluated for autism?
The degree to which a child is affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can vary significantly from child to child. Personnel at your school (or in the community) may have mentioned that your child/student exhibits some signs of autism. When trying to make a decision about if or when to pursue an autism assessment, gaining knowledge about the signs or red flags is the best place to start.
- What is autism?
- Video: Early signs of autism
- Video: Understanding Autism: A guide for middle and high school teachers
What will the evaluation look like?
There is no specific medical test to determine the presence or absence of the disorder. The diagnostic process can be challenging, particularly with students who are more mildly impacted by ASD. Because of the sensitive and varied nature of the disorder, a comprehensive evaluation is necessary by trained professionals who have observed the disorder, at various levels of impact, in many children over time. A comprehensive evaluation typically includes:
- Comprehensive background and educational file review;
- Information from parents/caregivers;
- Information from teachers or daycare provider;
- Behavior observations of students across multiple settings;
- Semi-structured assessments focused on social-communication skills;
- Social and communication developmental assessments.
Professionals typically involved in the school-based autism assessment process include the school psychologist, educational diagnostician, speech language pathologist, occupational therapist, and physical therapist.
What are the criteria for diagnosis?
In the summer of 2013, the American Psychiatric Association revised the diagnostic criteria for autism, which was published in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: 5th Edition (DSM-V). For a child to receive a diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Disorder, they must exhibit persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts (i.e. school, home, community), in addition to restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interest, or activities.
Who do I contact if I suspect my child has ASD?
If you live in Fayette County, reach out to one of the following resources:
- Families of preschoolers (approaching 3 or age 4): Schedule a screening with the Fayette County Preschool Program at (859) 381-4080, located at 465 Springhill Drive.
- Families of school-aged children (age 5-21): Call your child's school and speak with the achievement and compliance coach, who can tell you about the referral and evaluation process in FCPS.
In addition, anyone on the Autism Support Team is happy to speak with you regarding your concerns: