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Screening and Diagnosis of Autism

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Updated December 15, 2010

The media is filled with stories of a dramatic rise in autism diagnoses. Parents worry that any difference in their child's behavior or development could be a sign of a lifelong disability. Sometimes these worries are unnecessary. Other times, careful observation can lead to early diagnosis, early treatment, and, with luck, a positive outcome.

Noticing Early Signs of Autism

If you think that you or someone you love may be autistic, you'll probably have noticed certain symptoms. Perhaps you've observed a lack of eye contact, difficulty with social relationships, speech delays, or odd physical behaviors such as rocking, finger flicking or toe walking. These are the "red flags" that suggest something might be wrong -- and that something might be autism.

Selecting a Professional to Screen for and Diagnose Autism

Once you've determined that something may be amiss, it's a good idea to seek a professional to screen for autism. The "right" professional may be a psychologist, a developmental pediatrician or a pediatric neurologist -- but the most important criteria is that the expert you choose has experience with and knowledge of autism spectrum disorders.

How Do Professionals Screen for and Diagnose Autism?

Because autism cannot be diagnosed with a medical test, screening and diagnosis involves interviews, observation and evaluations. Even when a professional provides an opinion, the opinion may be couched in such terms as "it LOOKS like a pervasive developmental disorder, but your child doesn't have all the symptoms of autism." While this kind of uncertainty can be extremely frustrating, it's sometimes unavoidable -- and even clearcut autism diagnoses can change over time.

After the Autism Diagnosis

For many families, an autism diagnosis can be overwhelming. It seems to change everything, and it can affect your relationship with your spouse, your friends, and your child. But your child is still the person he or she always was -- and there's plenty of help, hope and support available. Learn More About Autism Symptoms, Types of Autism and Autism Diagnosis

-> -> -> Has your child been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder? Now is the right time to Choose Autism Treatments

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