Autism isn’t diagnosed by blood tests or medical testing.  The best practice at this time is an evaluation by a group of professionals who have experience in working and evaluating children with autism.  Because of this, it usually takes several hours for a comprehensive evaluation to be done.  At the James L. Dennis Developmental Center this evaluation is usually done by members of a team and takes several hours to complete.  This usually includes:

  • A medical professional who gets information about your child’s medical, development and family history (Physician or Advanced Nurse Practitioner)
  • A psychologist who measures your child’s developmental/cognitive level and their adaptive skills (Ph.D. psychologist or Licensed Psychological Examiner)
  • A speech therapist who is able to measure your child’s speech and language skills
  • A social worker who gets a good medical, social and developmental history of your child and your family.
  • A measure of your child’s social interactions either by direct observation, engaging in structured assessment of play skills (by a test called the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule 2nd ED) or by rating scales such as the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS).
  • This assessment can also include occupational therapists who assess fine motor and sensory processing issues
  • Physical therapists who can assess for gross motor issues 

This evaluation takes time because we need to learn more about your child and see where there are areas of concern.  
1)  Time is spent with family members to better understand your concerns.  We will ask questions about:
a)  Your child's developmental and any areas that you are concerned about
b) Your child's medical history so we can see if medical issues are contributing to areas of concern
c) School and therapy history to see what issues are of concern with learning and if your child has received support/interventions
d)  Family history to get a better idea of what medical and developmental issues may be in your family.

2).  At the DDC we also ask teachers to complete forms for you to bring with you for the evaluation.  This helps us get a better idea of what successes and challenges the child may have in the school setting.  We ask about successes and challenges in academic subjects but also with friends and following rules at school.  Also having copies of past evaluations on your child helps get a better picture of their developmental history.

3).  Your child will also have direct testing with some of our team members.  This can include cognitive/developmental testing, speech/language testing and testing of a child's social interactions.  This helps the team see your child's strengths and challenges in "real time".

4).  A team evaluation can help provide a diagnosis/diagnoses for your child.  This can help your child have access to services that they need and can help guide the school and others in the community on how to best support and help your child.

Please click on these web links for more information about testing for ASD

                                                                                                                              CDC Austism Screening Guidelines
                                                                                                                                Austism Speaks "What is Autism?"