Due to the natural variation in early development of infants and toddler, it is often difficult to make a definitive diagnosis prior to age 2 or 3. However, recent research has begun identifying predictive behaviors in children as young as 12 months.
Parents are usually the first to notice unusual behaviors. Because the disorder is complex and symptoms are unique for each child, it is important for parents to be proactive. If a parent has concerns about their child’s development, it is important to ask the child’s doctor about autism screening or request a referral for a developmental evaluation.
A medical evaluation of autism may be made by a physician or psychologist with expertise in diagnosing ASD. The evaluation may include:
- Detailed history, physical and neurologic exam
- Careful observation of the child at play and interaction with the caregiver
- Standardized autism rating scale or observation schedule
- Hearing test
- Language evaluation
- Cognitive testing
- Detailed family history
- Laboratory tests such as chromosomes, Fragile X, microarray
- Neurologic tests such as the EEG or MRI