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There are no medical tests for diagnosing ASD. An accurate diagnosis must be based on observation of the individual’s communication, behavior, and developmental levels. However, because many of the behaviors associated with ASD are shared by other disorders, various medical tests may be ordered to rule out or identify other possible causes of the symptoms being exhibited. A brief observation in a single setting cannot present a true picture of an individual’s abilities and behaviors. Parental (and other caregivers) input and developmental history are very important components of making an accurate diagnosis. At first glance, some persons with ASD may appear to have mental retardation, a behavior disorder, and problems with hearing, or even odd and eccentric behavior. To complicate matters further, these conditions can co-occur with ASD. However, it is important to distinguish ASD from other conditions, since an accurate diagnosis and early identification can provide the basis for building an appropriate and effective educational and treatment program.
Research indicates that early diagnosis is associated with dramatically better outcomes for individuals with ASD. The earlier a child is diagnosed, the earlier the child can begin benefiting from one of the many specialized intervention approaches.
The characteristic behaviors of ASD may or may not be apparent in infancy (18 to 24 months), but usually become obvious during early childhood (24 months to 6 years). As part of a well-baby/well-child visit, your child’s doctor should do a “developmental screening” asking specific questions about your babies baby’s progress. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) lists these five behaviors that signal evaluation is warranted:
• Does not babble or coo by 12 months
• Does not gesture (point, wave, grasp) by 12 months
• Does not say single words by 16 months
• Does not say two-word phrases on his or her own by 24 months
• Has any loss of any language or social skill at any age
Having any of these five “red flags” does not mean your child has ASD, but because the characteristics of the disorder vary so much, a child should have further evaluations by a multidisciplinary team that may include a neurologist, psychologist, developmental pediatrician, speech/language therapist, learning consultant, or other professionals knowledgeable about autism (Providence Child Center or Help Autism Now Society).
Please contact your insurance company to determine which center is covered by your health plan. If your insurance provider or Medical Assistance does not cover the cost of the initial evaluation, you will be responsible for those costs.
Oregon Resources for A Diagnostic Evaluation Include:
Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) Phone: 503.494.8095
Kaiser Permanente, Developmental Assessment Clinic (members only through referring physician) Phone: 503.331.5040 (advice) or 503.249.5526 (to get an appointment)
Legacy Health System, Pediatric Development & Rehabilitation Phone 503.413.4505
Northwest Early Childhood Institute Phone: 503.228.6479
The Children’s Program Phone: 503.452.8002