Diagnosing autism spectrum disorder: Does your child have ASD?

Participate in research buttonAn experienced team of experts at the AARTS Center at Rush takes a comprehensive approach to diagnosing autism spectrum disorder (ASD). And at the AARTS Center, you can be confident that your child will get a fair, experienced evaluation.

  • If your child does have ASD, we will partner with you to create a personalized treatment plan for your child.
  • If your child does not have ASD, we won’t just send you on your way. We will offer recommendations to address your concerns and help your child through his or her unique challenges.

How do you diagnose ASD?

Clinicians at the AARTS Center at Rush provide more than just a diagnosis. They understand that you need more than simply a name for your child’s condition.

That is why the center utilizes a comprehensive, personalized evaluation process for diagnosing ASD. You are encouraged to ask questions and voice your concerns before, during and after the diagnosis process. The more our clinicians know and understand about your child and his or her symptoms and behaviors, the better they are able to personalize your child’s evaluation and care going forward.

The evaluation consists of three separate appointments with our multidisciplinary team of experts:

  • First appointment: Clinicians will interview parents, guardians and/or other family members to learn about the child’s developmental history, symptoms, strengths and challenges.
  • Second appointment: Clinicians will conduct a wide range of diagnostic tests (e.g., behavioral, intellectual and social assessments) to evaluate your child firsthand. These tests will help clinicians understand how your child experiences the world.
  • Third appointment: Clinicians will meet with you to provide feedback on whether or not an ASD diagnosis is appropriate and to begin developing an individualized plan of care and support. Providers at the center are committed to communicating openly, honestly and supportively to help you understand the diagnosis and the next steps to take.

ASD diagnostic tests

Autism assessmentHere are some of the things our team evaluates during a diagnostic evaluation:

  • Social and communication skills in a semi-structured play environment
  • Self-help and independent living skills
  • Developmental skills and abilities
  • Intellectual strengths and weaknesses
  • Processing skills
  • Mood and disposition

The team at that AARTS Center will also evaluate your child for other health and psychiatric conditions, which could either mimic ASD or occur simultaneously with ASD. Some these conditions may include the following:

Diagnosing ASD in adolescents and adults

Boy playing a gameWith the majority of ASD research focusing on children with ASD, diagnosing adolescents and adults with ASD can be more complicated.

However, the AARTS Center at Rush is one of few centers in the Chicago area that specializes in diagnosing and treating teenagers and adults with ASD. The center’s team approach addresses the complexity of these evaluations through specialized evaluations designed specifically for cases like these.

While there are currently no established diagnostic tests for ASD in teens and adults, here are some ways the team evaluates this age group:

  • Structured interviews with the young adult, parents, caregiver and/or spouse
  • Targeted psychiatric testing that focuses on decision-making and processing
  • Evaluating social interaction and social communications
  • Observing atypical behaviors and sensory challenges
  • Executive function examinations
  • Thorough medical history to consider other conditions that may mimic and/or occur simultaneously with ASD