Autism Self-Assessments and Professional Evaluations

At The Center for Behavioral Health at Woods, we are committed to providing support and guidance to families navigating the complexities of autism. Jared Levin, VP of Marketing at Woods Services, sat down for a brief interview with Dr. Bethanie Wenke, the Assistant Director of Clinical Assessments at Woods Healthcare to discuss assessments for autism.

If you, as a parent, caregiver, teacher, or pediatrician, notice behaviors in a child that may suggest autism, beginning with a self-assessment can be a helpful first step. An autism self-assessment involves observing and evaluating a child’s behavior using structured questionnaires or checklists. There are several online at-home self-assessment questionnaires that can provide preliminary information.

Online Questionnaires: A Preliminary Step

Image of the front of the Center for Behavioral Health at Woods in a rural setting.While online questionnaires can be a valuable tool for initial evaluation, they should not be considered a final diagnosis. They offer a structured way to identify behaviors and traits that are consistent with autism but lack the comprehensive nature of a professional autism assessment.

One commonly used tool is the “Ages and Stages Questionnaire.” This questionnaire is designed to screen social and emotional functioning and developmental progress in children. It helps identify areas where a child’s development may differ from typical milestones, providing an early indication of potential concerns. Many pediatricians, daycare centers, and schools use this test. It’s available for parents to complete and download at home to bring to their doctor to review. These online questionnaires can also be used as an autism assessment for adults who demonstrate signs of autism.

At-Home Tips for Starting an Autism Diagnosis

For parents, caregivers, and physicians who are beginning research on an autism diagnosis, here are some practical tips:

  1. Observation: Pay attention to your child’s development and behavior. Note any delays or differences in communication, social interaction, and repetitive behaviors.
  2. Record Keeping: Keep a journal of your observations. This can be valuable information for professionals during the assessment process.
  3. Consultation: Discuss your observations with your child’s pediatrician. They can provide guidance and refer you to specialists if needed.
  4. Research and Education: Educate yourself about autism. Understanding the condition helps in identifying signs and advocating for your child.
  5. Community Support: Connect with local support groups or online communities for advice and shared experiences.

When Should Professional Testing for Autism Begin?

Image of a young male patient looking away as a therapist shows him pictures of a happy and sad face.The best time to start testing for autism is early in a child’s development. Ideally, screening can begin as young as 12 months. Additional testing, like IQ assessment, is often recommended around the age of 2.5 years. Early autism assessments are crucial because they allow for early intervention, ensuring that services and support systems are in place when they are most effective.

Early diagnosis can significantly impact a child’s developmental trajectory and quality of life. It opens the door to specialized educational programs, therapies, and support systems tailored to the child’s unique needs.

Ruling Out Autism with a Professional Assessment

Other underlying conditions such as anxiety or ADHD may come into play with behavior, so a comprehensive professional assessment is recommended to ensure the accuracy of an autism diagnosis. Components of an evaluation conducted by a behavioral medical provider include the following:

  1. Full Standardized Intake: A trained professional conducts a thorough review of the child’s developmental history and behavior.
  2. ADOF (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule): This semi-structured assessment looks at communication, social interaction, and play for individuals suspected of having autism.
  3. IQ Testing: Conducted by trained evaluators, this structured assessment evaluates a child’s intellectual abilities and developmental level.

Image of female therapist reading with a young male with autism in a clinical setting.

At the Center for Behavioral Health at Woods, we understand the concerns and challenges faced by parents and caregivers regarding the well-being of their loved ones with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a topic that often raises questions and requires careful consideration. We believe that autism self-assessments for adults and children are valuable starting points, but they are just the first step in a path that may require professional guidance and support.

If you have concerns about your child’s development, we encourage you to use the resources available for autism self-assessment as an initial step, and then to gain a deeper understanding and receive a comprehensive evaluation, schedule an appointment  with us at the Center for Behavioral Health at Woods. We currently have openings for full assessments. We’re here for you.