Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children

Autism spectrum disorder is a group of complex neurological and developmental disorders that affect brain development and cause social, communication, and behavioral challenges.

People with the condition have difficulty with social interactions and verbal and nonverbal communication. They may also exhibit repetitive behaviors or restricted interests. Signs of autism spectrum disorder begin to appear during early childhood and typically last throughout a person’s life.

Children with autism spectrum disorder develop social and communication skills in different ways and at different ages than their peers. Some babies become overly focused on certain objects, rarely making eye contact. They may fail to engage in typical back-and-forth play and babbling with their parents. Other children may develop typically but then show a regression in social, language, or other skills.

A young child with autism spectrum disorder may not smile in social situations, have poor social interactions, prefer to be alone, and not make gestures, such as pointing or showing objects. Imaginative play may be minimal or nonexistent.

A Spectrum Disorder

Autism is considered a spectrum disorder, meaning symptoms and variations occur along a continuum. Some children, for instance, have average or above average cognitive and language abilities (previously, they may have been described as having Asperger syndrome).

The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with autism spectrum disorder range from advanced to severely challenged. Some people with the condition need significant daily help, whereas others need less assistance.

Symptoms can fall anywhere on this spectrum. The common difficulties people with autism spectrum disorder share are problems with social and communication skills and restrictive or repetitive behaviors.

People with autism spectrum disorder may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. For example, a person with the disorder may have difficulty using and interpreting nonverbal behaviors. This may include problems with facial expressions and body language as well as verbal conventions, such as taking turns while having a conversation.

Getting the Most Accurate Diagnosis

Evaluations are tailored to the needs of each family and include a thorough review of the child’s behavior and development. Our experts gain information about the child’s behavior and developmental milestones through direct observation, interviews with parents, speech and language evaluations, and cognitive assessments. The evaluation is play-based and tests the child’s understanding of words, as well as social communication skills, such as imitation, reciprocity, and initiation.

At the end of the evaluation, parents meet with our specialists and are given detailed recommendations and an in-depth report. Each evaluation also includes a consultation with an experienced social worker, who reviews the experts’ recommendations. The social worker then provides families and children with the appropriate therapeutic and educational referrals.

Link: https://nyulangone.org/conditions/autism-spectrum-disorder-in-children/diagnosis

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