By Dr. Carly Lapin, Ph.D., BCBA-D
Early diagnosis and intervention are essential for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). As a clinician, I often see parents wait to obtain a diagnostic or developmental evaluation despite clinical recommendations. Some of the most common reasons I have heard are:
“I want to see how my child does in a variety of early intervention services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy.”
The results of a diagnostic evaluation will tell you which early intervention services to focus most of your time on. For example, if it is a language delay, speech therapy will be priority. If the results are autism, the diagnosis will provide access to more treatment options such as ABA therapy, which can only be accessed following an autism diagnosis.
“I want to give it time to see if my child progresses naturally in terms of development.”
If your child is going to develop normally, getting an autism evaluation will not change that. We can always hope for the best-case scenario while preparing for other outcomes.
“I go back and forth on if anything is truly concerning.”
An experienced diagnostic clinician will help you determine if there is cause for concern.
“I was also a late talker.”
While it is true that speech delay does not always indicate autism, an evaluation is still necessary to rule out the possibility.
“I tried to get my child in for an evaluation earlier, but the waitlists were so long.”
We will be addressing this and providing resources to schedule an earlier evaluation at the end of the article!
Regardless of the reason, I strongly recommend obtaining a developmental evaluation immediately upon noticing early signs of autism or a developmental delay. One of the major reasons is that, if your child has autism, a diagnosis opens your doors for treatment. ABA therapy is the most effective therapy for individuals with autism and becomes available for your child upon receiving a diagnosis. ABA therapy, especially when started young, leads to:
- Improved social and communication skills. ABA can help children with ASD learn how to interact with others and communicate more effectively.
- Reduced behavioral problems. ABA therapy can help to reduce problem behaviors, such as tantrums, aggression and self-injury.
- Improved cognitive skills. ABA therapy improves cognitive skills, such as language and problem-solving.
- Increased independence. ABA therapy can help children with ASD become more independent and self-sufficient.
- Increased quality of life for the child and family.
Testing for Other Developmental Disorders
Another reason you might want to consider a diagnostic evaluation is to rule out autism. Diagnostic evaluations are comprehensive and test for a range of developmental delays and disorders such as language delays, ADHD and OCD to name a few. Knowing exactly what is occurring with your child will help point you in the right direction of next steps and what the most appropriate course of therapy will be for your child.
Getting a Diagnostic Evaluation Quickly
I urge all families that I converse with to please not wait to obtain a diagnostic evaluation. As a parent, you might notice certain behaviors, or you might just feel in your gut that something is different. If you have had difficulty scheduling an evaluation, please get in touch with us. Although the larger hospitals may have long waitlists, there is an abundance of psychologists and developmental specialists that have short waitlists and are specifically trained on these types of assessments.
Connecting with a Diagnostic Provider
The Place for Children with Autism has a lengthy list of professional partners all across Illinois who can provide diagnostic evaluations, and can do so quickly. Please reach out to us using the form or phone number listed below and we will happily put you in touch with one of our diagnostic partners to begin the process.