If you suspect your child may have autism spectrum disorder, your first plan of action will be to seek out a highly-qualified professional for potential diagnosis and subsequent therapies. In 2018, the CDC determined that Maryland has the second highest rate of autism spectrum diagnosis in the country, with 1 in 55 children having been diagnosed.(1) One of the study’s authors, Dr. Walter Zahorodny, an associate professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, explained that this doesn’t mean that Maryland has higher numbers of children living with autism spectrum disorder than other states, noting, “Other states could be underestimating the rate of autism.” 1 In fact, in the U.S, boys are 4 times more likely to be diagnosed as having autism spectrum disorder than girls. In Maryland, meanwhile, boys are 4.5 times more likely to be diagnosed.(1)
It’s good news that medical professionals, perhaps particularly in our state, are more aware of autism spectrum disorder than ever. Of course, of even greater importance, is properly diagnosing children. Despite the increase in awareness and diagnoses, there are still many misconceptions surrounding autism.
Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder
Signs of ASD are varied, and may include an unusual speech pattern, speech delays, or no discernable speech at all, not responding socially to caregivers (for instance, not answering when their name is called or when someone is speaking to them), no interest in pretend play or play with other children, an extreme reliance on routine and structure, a noticeable lack of eye contact, repeating certain words, or repetitive actions, such as hand-flapping.
Early and accurate diagnosis is important for individuals with autism spectrum disorder, so that appropriate interventions and therapeutic plans can be put in place. It’s commonly assumed that you can tell if someone has autism spectrum disorder simply by observing their quirks or habits, but this is a myth. In truth, diagnosing ASD involves a great deal of layers and complexities. It’s easy to confuse autism with other neurobehavioral, developmental, or intellectual challenges, as well as sensory processing, hearing, or vision disorders.(2) These very same challenges can also occur within autism spectrum disorder, making a proper diagnosis all the more tricky for care providers.(2)
Autism spectrum disorder is best diagnosed in combination with a formal assessment completed by a qualified medical professional and with input from the teachers, parents, and caregivers of the child. With autism spectrum disorder, it’s important to create a whole, full picture of the individual child. It is often said that if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism, and this expression holds true — each child’s experience with ASD is unique to them.
Who Is Qualified to Effectively Diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorder?
When it comes to receiving an autism spectrum diagnosis, the person who will likely be the first to guide you is your child’s own pediatrician.3 Make sure to attend each scheduled “well visit” with the pediatrician, as your physician should be noting your child’s development at every appointment. Since signs of autism spectrum disorder are often first noticed in the mid-toddler years, your doctor can keep a close eye on your child’s development, and refer him or her to a specialist, if autism is suspected. It’s important to remember that every child really does develop at their own pace. However, if you still have concerns despite your physician’s reassurances, seeking out a developmental specialist on your own is also absolutely your choice.
A specialist may include child neurologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and neuropsychologists, or a developmental pediatrician.(3) Most general pediatricians, while wonderful and knowledgeable resources, simply do not have the same level of experience with autism as these developmental specialists. Because of just how easy it is to confuse autism spectrum disorder with another developmental disorder, autism specialization, experience, and credentials are vital.
If your child is already in a preschool or head start program, an education professional may also notice changes in your child that resemble autism or another difference. Many pre-kindergarten programs administer regular developmental screenings that can flag your child as having a potential developmental problem. These schools may be able to offer your resources and recommendations for a proper evaluation by a qualified professional.
Receiving an Autism Spectrum Disorder Evaluation in Maryland
Neurobehavioral Associates, based in Maryland, offers comprehensive neuropsychological assessments by highly experienced neuropsychological specialists. Our specialists are fully qualified to diagnose autism spectrum disorder or another related condition. We will not only evaluate your child for autism spectrum disorder, but also connect you with our network of resources and referrals, so that you can plan for your child’s therapy and success. Our staff regularly attend IEP planning meetings at schools throughout the region, as well as planning sessions with private schools, to ensure your child is receiving an appropriate educational plan for their diagnosis.
If you are concerned about autism spectrum disorder, or another behavioral or developmental difference, contact our team of specialists to schedule a meeting or evaluation.
- Belt, D. (2018, April 28). MD Has 2nd Highest Autism Rates In America, CDC Says. Retrieved January 29, 2019, from https://patch.com/maryland/annapolis/md-has-2nd-highest-autism-rates-america-cdc-says
- Diagnosis: ASD. (n.d.). Retrieved January 29, 2019, from http://www.autism-society.org/what-is/diagnosis/
- Rudy, L. J. (n.d.). Who Should Evaluate My Child for a Possible Autism Diagnosis? Retrieved January 29, 2019, from https://www.verywellhealth.com/who-should-diagnose-autism-spectrum-disorders-260333