How is autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosed?

Updated: Sep 30, 2019
  • Author: James Robert Brasic, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Caroly Pataki, MD  more...
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Answer

Several instruments have been developed to diagnose autism and other pervasive developmental disorders. Administering these tools in a reliable and valid manner requires extensive training and experience. Therefore, unless they have wide experience with children with autism and understand the concepts implicit in the diagnostic criteria and rating scales, pediatricians and other clinicians are advised to refer patients with possible autism to experienced clinicians for definitive diagnostic evaluations. (See the screening checklist below.)

The significance of answers to individual Autism S The significance of answers to individual Autism Screening Checklist items is as follows: Item 1- A "yes" occurs in healthy children and children with some pervasive developmental disorders; a "no" occurs in children with autism, Rett syndrome, and other developmental disorders. Item 2 - A "yes" occurs in healthy children, not children with autism. Item 3 - A "yes" occurs in healthy children and children with Asperger syndrome (ie, high-functioning autism); a "no" occurs in children with Rett syndrome; children with autism may elicit a "yes" or a "no"; some children with autism never speak; some children with autism may develop speech normally and then experience a regression with the loss of speech. Item 4 - A "yes" occurs in healthy children and children with Asperger syndrome and some other pervasive developmental disorders; a "no" occurs in children with developmental disorders; children with autism may elicit a "yes" or a "no." Items 5-10 - Scores of "yes" occur in some children with autism and in children with other disorders. Item 11 – A "yes" occurs in healthy children; a "no" occurs in some children with autism and in children with other disorders. Items 12, 13 - Scores of "yes" occur in some children with autism and in children with other disorders. Items 14-19 - Scores of "yes" occur in children with schizophrenia and other disorders, not in children with autism, Asperger syndrome, or other autism spectrum disorders. The higher the total score for items 5-10, 12, and 13 on the Autism Screening Checklist, the more likely the presence of an autism spectrum disorder.

One goal of this article is to convey fundamental concepts related to autism and related conditions. Readers of this article must obtain considerable additional training before they can reliably and validly apply diagnostic criteria and rating tools.


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