FREE SCREENINGS FOR AUTISM
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends all children be screened for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at 18 and 24 months.
When a parent or guardian has concerns, or a child is at risk for atypical development, an Autism screening is imperative. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who receive an early and intensive treatment have the best possible outcome. Despite this, most children are never screened for Autism.
Autism Spectrum Disorder can sometimes be detected at 18 months or younger. By age 2, a diagnosis by an experienced professional can be considered very reliable. However, many children do not receive a final diagnosis until they are either transitioning from an early intervention program or have already been placed in a self-contained classroom. This delay means that children with an ASD might not get the help they need at a critical time in brain development- ages 0-3.
WHEN TO GET A SCREENING
Parents and caregivers are in the position of knowing the child much better than any professional. Although pediatricians may screen for developmental delays, it does not mean that they have screened for ASD. It is difficult for any doctor to really know a child in a 10-15 minute doctor’s visit. Parents are the ones who spend the most time with the child, so you should not hesitate to bring up any concerns. If the doctor does not seem to have a solid understanding of your concern, get a second opinion. Timely intervention is critical to your child’s development.
A PROFESSIONAL’S VIEW
Our screening specialist has 20 years of experience in Early Childhood and Autism Spectrum Disorders. The specialist will help identify possible delays in language and social skills. This includes: engagement with others, play skills, and the scope of your child’s repetitive behaviors or limited, obsessive interests, if any. A delay in any of these areas could be a red flag that needs to be identified so treatment is not delayed.
THE SCREENING PROCESS
During the screening, the specialist will ask you questions or have you complete a short survey, and then spend some time observing your child during free play and also while you are interacting with your child. An assessment tool will also be used to score your child’s performance during the evaluation.
An autism screening does not provide a diagnosis, but it can help you and your doctor learn whether your child is showing delays or deficits in the two core areas related to ASD: (1) social communication and social interaction; and (2) restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.
If your child’s screening evaluation results in your child being “AT RISK” for Autism Spectrum Disorder, you will be supported in each step you take. Most important is to immediately schedule a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation to help you rule-out Autism Spectrum Disorder or get your child the timely treatment he or she needs.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Most screening appointments take about 30-45 minutes, but depending on your child’s developmental level and the items we can test if your child cooperates, it may take longer. So we schedule 90 minutes, just in case.
A screening is to help you get information on “red flags” that are common in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and those we observe in your child, if any, during the screening appointment. It’s a helpful way to answer those questions every parent has… “Am I being too critical?” “Is this typical for children to do?” “What can I do to help my child?”
1) We provide home-based screenings. This means that your child will likely act as they typically do, so the evaluator conducting the screening can get an accurate rating on many skills that are difficult to observe in an office.
2) You will get information about different “red flags” your child is demonstrating, if any. We firmly believe that an informed parent is one of the most important factors in a child reaching his or her full potential. The other factor comes when ABA therapy requires consistency and follow-thru, which we achieve through parent training.
3) If your child’s results are “at risk” for ASD based on the observation and standardized screening assessment, you will get an easy to read summary from the specialist to bring to the diagnostician (i.e., psychologist, neuropsychogist). This helps provide the diagnostician information that may be more difficult to get from you in an office setting as your mind is racing, trying to think about how your child responds on a daily basis, or how often they x, y, or z.
4) You can use the report to prompt you with other information you may have forgotten about.
Our specialist will observe your child (observing your child while gathering information from you is something we are trained in doing), ask you questions, play with your child to establish rapport and attempt to get your child to demonstrate some skills. If we have difficulty establishing rapport with the time we are given, we may ask you to interact with your child in an attempt to get him or her to respond.
Tip for the visit: Begin to write down as much as you have time for, on a daily basis, that concerns you about your child, and write down any questions you have.