Getting a Diagnosis
The first step is receiving a proper diagnosis. This is important for a number of reasons;
- helping you and those involved with your child to plan the way ahead
- Informing people quickly what kinds of behaviours they might expect from your child
- opening doors to services that you may need for your child
A diagnosis of autism is difficult to deal with – but it can be the start of helping your child.
How to get a diagnosis for your child?
In most cases assessment centres or diagnostic teams take referrals from a range of sources:
- Your local GP/Doctor
- Health visitor
- Speech and language therapist
- Physiotherapist/Occupational Therapist
There are a range of diagnostic tools that are widely used by centres and teams. These include;
- Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS)
- Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS)
- Diagnostic Interview for Social and Communication Disorders (DISCO)
- The Griffith Developmental Assessment
- School observations
- Language cards
- Theory of mind test (TOM)
There will probably be parent interviews, autism specific tests, as well as more general observations of the behaviour of your child. All of these tests will be based purely on your child’s behaviour, there will be no medical tests.
The team will look for behaviours in three areas:
- Social interaction
- Imagination and play
The question that the diagnostic team are trying to find out is whether or not your child displays too many or too few of the behaviours expected in these three categories compared with other children of his or her age or if these behaviours are missing altogether.
When you know the diagnosis steps can be taken. This can be challenging as the cause of autism is not well understood and there are no medicines that you can give your child to “cure” autism. Autism is NOT something to be cured, it is a life-long condition.
This is the most important point on your journey with autism. You must be strong and rely on scientific evidence on the right intervention for your child. This is an enormous responsibility but remember there are other parents and experts who have been where you are standing and they have made a path for you to follow. Indeed it will probably be the parents of other children with autism that will be your greatest support in the years ahead.
Behavioural Programmes for Autism
The worst effects of autism can be prevented in many cases. It is now known that early, intensive behavioural programmes can eliminate completely the symptoms of autism in some children and greatly improve the lives of many others.
Children with autism need specially prepared programmes that will teach them to learn from their parents, siblings, peers and others. These are the initial aims of behavioural interventions. Although the most dramatic results have been achieved with pre-school children, programmes in teaching social skills and learning by observation (imitation) are also applicable to school age children, adolescents, and adults.