How Autism is Diagnosed in Las Vegas
Nevada Autism Center has an almost exclusive focus on the experience of children receiving behavioral services within our clinic. The children enrolled at the clinic receive services on a full-time basis, averaging 30-40 hours per week in the center. Here, they can receive one-on-one behavioral services, but they are also introduced and encouraged to interact with peers, take-turns, play multiplayer games, and build their social skills both in individual and group settings. The in-clinic environment also allows for greater opportunities for learning to take place with fewer distractions than if they are taught inside their home.
Below are some types of screening tools used for infants, toddlers, and young children to identify ASD symptoms and/or risk factors:
- Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) – these questions focus on the child’s communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem-solving, and personal adaptive skills as they relate to their current age. The scoring guide is pass or fail.
- Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales (CSBS) – this questionnaire focuses on infants and toddlers up until the age of 24 months. Questions are focused on communication and symbolic behavior skills where parents identify how often, if ever, certain behaviors or behavior patterns occur in their infant/toddler.
- Parents Evaluation of Developmental Status (PEDS) – a general assessment completed by parents for children ages birth through 18. This assessment screens development, behavior, social-emotional/mental health, and autism in an open-ended format to encourage frequent and meaningful interactions regarding any ASD symptoms between the parent and their child’s physician.
- Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, Revised, with Follow Up (MCHAT-R/F) – This parent-completed questionnaire focuses on children ages 16 through 30 months and is a 1-page questionnaire scored using the pass/fail method. This questionnaire gives a low, moderate, or high risk for ASD score for parents/physicians. The questions focus on social, emotional, communicative, and developmental behaviors.
- Screening Tool for Autism in Toddlers and Young Children (STAT) – Unlike the assessment tools listed above that are primarily conducted by the parents of younger children, the STAT is used by trained professionals in an interactive method consisting of 12 items that take about 20 minutes to complete.
The below chart from the CDC may be helpful to parents in understanding the process from beginning to end when screening for Autism Spectrum Disorder.
The sample schedule below is just a reference for what goes on during your child’s day at the clinic. Each child will attend certain groups and activities dependent on their skill level and will also receive one-on-one therapy time with their therapist in their designated therapy room. Children will need to come with a backpack that can either go home with them each day or stay in their cubby or therapy room. Bags should include:
- Lunch box with their name clearly labeled on it, packed with plenty of options for snacks, lunch, and beverages
- A filled water bottle with their name clearly labeled
- Spare change of clothes including underwear and socks
- Diapering needs, such as diapers, wipes, and paste
This chart is useful in that it displays the entire process in a visual, simplified manner. Parents can expect to receive Autism screening questionnaires at each well-child checkup or when they believe their child may be exhibiting symptoms of ASD.
It is very important that if ASD is suspected, the timeline to a diagnosis and referral to early intervention or special education is critical. The earlier a child begins receiving services, the better prognosis they have for an autonomous, independent life later.
Once the questionnaires have been scored by a trained healthcare professional, the results will be discussed with you. Next steps, if there are concerns or indicators, your healthcare professional may run more specific medical and diagnostic testing or refer you straight to early intervention, if your child is under the age of 3, or special education if your child is over the age of 3.
Diagnostic tools may be used by your healthcare professional once it has been determined that there is a need for further assessment for your child’s symptoms. Keep in mind, that there is not a single diagnostic test that can or should be used to arrive at a diagnosis for your child. The best diagnoses are derived from a combination of parental information in the form of interviews and questionnaires and direct observation of and interaction with your child.
- Autism Diagnosis Interview-Revised (ADI-R) – this tool is another interview-based method used with both adults and children who have a mental age greater than 18 months. The interview focuses on 3 primary areas of behavior- reciprocal social interaction; communication and language; and restricted and repetitive, stereotyped interests and behaviors.
- Autism Diagnosis Observation Schedule – Generic (ADOS-G) – this tool provides interaction and observation opportunities for the physician or healthcare professional. It is a semi-structured assessment that focuses on social interaction, communication, play, and imaginative use of materials. Each focus is its own module, lasting approximately 30 minutes each.
- Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) – a brief assessment involving children over the age of 2 with 2, 15-item rating scales and a parent/caregiver questionnaire.
- Gilliam Autism Rating Scale (GARS) – another written rating assessment, the GARS helps with identifying the severity of the disorder in children ages 3 through 22 that are suspected to have ASD. The assessment focuses on three specific areas known to be characteristics of Autism, stereotyped behaviors, communication, and social interaction. This is a very widely known and used tool that helps in various settings, including home and school.
Nevada Autism Center will conduct both an ABA assessment and refer to a professional assessment, utilizing telehealth if available/necessary. We aim to make this process simple for parents who are already carrying a huge weight on their shoulders!
Our assessments also strive to identify specific characteristics of your child that may help with behavior intervention plans and skill acquisition goals, such as likes/dislikes and routines they may be used to. Each of our treatment plans are individualized to each child we serve – there are no cookie-cutter or fill-in-the-blank forms.
The more information we can obtain about your child and their specific needs, the better therapy plans our compassionate and experienced BCBAs can create for them. Although this is a lot of information and it may seem overwhelming, rest assured that our family at NAC will help you every step of the way!