Though many parents feel concern over labelling their child at a young age, studies have shown that the earlier an autism diagnosis is made the earlier intervention programs can be started. The current rate of autism in the US is one in 59, which is a marked increase over prior years. With prevalence rates on the rise, many parents are now asking the questions, "Does my child have autism?" and "Is there an autism test for kids?"
There are many possible signs of autism, and every child will present autism differently. Because the disorder is a spectrum, there is no one set definitive characteristic that points a big red blinking arrow at a child saying "THIS CHILD HAS AUTISM!!" It is a disorder of both subtle differences as well as big actions and reactions. The CDC lists some of the following as possible signs of autism:
All children should have a screening for potential developmental delays during their well-child visits, including those at 9 months, 18 months, and 24 or 30 months. If your child's doctor notes any signs of a problem a more comprehensive evaluation will be done. Typically this evaluation, or autism screening test, is done by a child development specialist. This is not a genetic test for autism. This is an observation and interaction based ASD assessment. Many times, the path to determine if your child is indeed on the autism spectrum will be a long one, taking anywhere from one to three years to receive a diagnosis.
Currently autism tests for kids consist of the following assessments:
All of the information gathered during the autism assessment should be presented to you in a report that also lists their strengths and weaknesses along with the general level of developmental function your child is currently at.
There are many different mechanisms for autism screenings by child development specialists. These include the The M-CHAT, the ADOS II, the Autism Spectrum Screening Questionnaire, and the Childhood Asperger Syndrome Test. All of these tests involve interpretation of a child's behaviors by the test proctor. They do not take things into account such as outside influences, things that may have happened to change the child's mood to the positive or the negative, or how attentive the proctor may or may not be. There are many factors that could influence the objectivity of the assessment. A more definitive autism test for kids is certainly needed.
What difference does an autism diagnosis make? Why label your child with such a disorder? The answer is this, earlier diagnosis leads to earlier interventions. Studies over the last few years have shown that early intervention programs for children are most effective when started as early as possible. Early intervention has also been found to have a positive cost-benefit by Jacobsen et al and by Cidav et al. A diagnosis of autism for your child helps guarantee that these intervention programs will begin. Early diagnosis means early intervention.