Autism Diagnosis and Treatment

We offer comprehensive diagnostic and treatment services to help children, teens and adults with autism to develop new skills and meet any challenges they face.

We offer comprehensive diagnostic and treatment services to help children, teens and adults with autism to develop new skills and meet any challenges they face.

Autism Diagnosis at Rush

Experts at Rush offer comprehensive evaluations for children, teens and adults with symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These evaluations can also detect other conditions that affect communication, social skills or learning.

We know that a precise diagnosis is an important first step toward receiving the right treatment. Our personalized evaluation process will help identify specific strengths and weaknesses — and guide future care. The whole process is based on the latest research about what leads to the most accurate and useful diagnoses. It's also tailored to each patient's age and needs.

Diagnosing Children

Our diagnostic evaluations for children usually include three to four appointments. Throughout the process, we welcome your questions and concerns. The more we know about your child's symptoms and behaviors, the better we can personalize your child’s evaluation and care.

The process includes the following:

  • Intake appointment: In the first visit, the team at Rush will interview you and other family members. The team may also ask that you and your child's other caregivers or teachers complete questionnaires about your child. We do this to learn important details about your child’s developmental and educational history, current symptoms, strengths and challenges.
  • Testing appointment: In the second visit, we'll do several diagnostic tests. These tests will assess your child’s developmental skills, cognitive abilities, social interaction, behavior and emotional functioning. Depending on your child's needs and your desires, we may also test their attention, executive functioning, memory or academic skills.
  • Feedback appointment: After testing, we'll meet with you to discuss your child's diagnosis. At this meeting, we'll also begin developing a plan of care based on their strengths and weaknesses. We're committed to communicating openly, honestly and supportively to help you understand the diagnosis and next steps.
  • Optional neuropsychological testing (requires a referral from a pediatric neurologist): Rush also offers specialized neuropsychological evaluations for children with a history of complex medical conditions, such as seizures or genetic disorders. These tests can help our team understand how your child’s medical condition may impact their learning and development.

After the three required appointments are over, we'll give you a written report summarizing our findings and recommendations. Typically, we discuss the results of any neuropsychological testing separately.

Re-Evaluating a Child's Diagnosis

Your child's strengths, weaknesses and needs can change over time. Re-evaluations can help make sure their care plan is still on the right track.

Re-evaluations can be particularly helpful before major transitions — for example, before your child enters kindergarten, middle school or high school. They don't need to happen every year, and most people don't need them after they enter adulthood.

During a re-evaluation, we'll monitor your child’s developmental progress, address any new concerns and provide updated treatment recommendations.

Diagnosing Teens and Adults

Rush is one of the few health systems in Illinois that specializes in diagnosing and treating teenagers and adults with autism. Diagnosing autism after childhood can be complicated, because symptoms can change as people age. Our evaluation process is designed to account for this complexity.

The process may include three to four appointments, including the following:

  • Interviews with the patient and their loved ones
  • Tests of decision-making and processing abilities
  • Evaluation of social interaction and communication skills
  • Evaluation for other conditions that may mimic or accompany autism

After testing is complete, you'll meet with the team to review our findings and recommendations. (You'll also receive a written summary of our findings and recommendations.)

Autism Treatment at Rush

Each person with autism has their own strengths, weaknesses and symptoms. The team at Rush will work with you to create a care plan that addresses your or your child's unique needs and goals. It may include one or more of the following.

Child and Family Therapy

We offer cognitive-behavioral therapy (the most common kind of psychotherapy) to help with disruptive behaviors, social skills, anxiety and more. Our cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) services include individual therapy and group therapy for children and whole families. Parents and families often play a significant role in CBT.

Adult or Teen Therapy

Rush is one of the few health systems in Illinois with experts in treating teens and adults with autism. We offer cognitive-behavioral therapy to help you build the skills you need and meet the unique challenges you face. At Rush, you'll have the option of attending individual therapy or group therapy.

Either way, your therapist at Rush will have extensive knowledge of the challenges people with autism may face after childhood. They can help you develop new skills and strategies to meet social, emotional, and school or workplace challenges. They'll also connect you with other community groups or resources that might meet your needs.

Social Skills Groups

We offer social skills groups for children, teens and young adults. Parent and guardian groups — where you'll learn to help your child practice skills — often meet at the same time. New groups start regularly, and include the following:

  • Friendship skills for middle school students.
  • PEERS, a program that helps teens learn to make and keep friends using techniques proven by research. (PEERS stands for Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills.)
  • Sex and relationship education for teens and adults.
Medication Management

There are no medications that can cure autism or treat its primary symptoms. But medications can help with conditions (such as anxiety) that affect people with autism. Depending on your needs and desires, psychiatrists at Rush can help find the right medication for your or your child's needs. They'll also carefully watch how medications are working.

School Consultation

We can work with your school district to help teachers and other staff support your family. We often offer consultations on classroom techniques that can be particularly helpful for students with autism:

  • Inclusion of visual support, sensory integration and other interventions specific to the way children with autism learn
  • Changes to the learning environment
  • Teaching self-help skills and independence

School consultation services require a referral from your school.

Couples Therapy

Rush has couples therapy services for couples in which one or both of the partners have autism. We also offer therapy for couples working together to raise a child with autism.