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How is Autism Diagnosed?

Early diagnosis is crucial for individuals with an autism spectrum disorder, to enable the most effective intervention, treatment and management of the condition. It also allows families and carers to have access to the appropriate services and support as early as possible.

A diagnosis of Autism is usually confirmed by a health professional such as a paediatrician or a child psychologist.

To be given a diagnosis of Autism an individual will need to present with a number of specific symptoms as stated in the diagnostic criteria.

The World Health Organisation compiled a list of diagnostic criteria to aid the diagnosis of Autism. The following list is the current criteria to enable diagnosis of Autism. A total of six (or more) items from (A), (B), and (C), with at least two from (A), and one each from (B) and (C) must be present for a diagnosis of Autism

A) Qualitative abnormalities in social interaction which manifest in at least one of the areas below:

  • Failure to use eye contact, appropriate facial expressions and body posture, as well as gestures used to regulate social interaction
  • Failure developing peer relationships (in a way that is appropriate to mental age). This involves a mutual sharing of interests and emotions
  • An impaired response to other people's emotions; or a weak integration of social, emotional and communicative behaviours

B) Qualitative abnormalities in communication that manifests in at least two of the following areas:

  • Delay / total lack of development in speech, that is not accompanied by an attempt to compensate through the use of gestures/mime as alternative communication modes
  • Failure to start or sustain conversational interchange (age appropriate)
  • Repetitive or stereotyped use of language, words or phrases
  • Abnormalities in the pitch, rate, rhythm and stress of speech

C) Restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behaviour, interests and activities, manifesting in at least 2 of the following areas:

  • A pre-occupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest; or one or more interests that are abnormal in their intensity, although normal in their content/focus.
  • Compulsive adherence to specific, non-functional routines.
  • Stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms e.g. hand or finger flapping; complex whole body movements.
  • Pre-occupations with part-objects or non-functional elements of play toys e.g. the texture of the surface, or the noise/vibrations they can generate.
  • Distress following changes in small, non-functional details of the environment.
  • Presence of abnormal / impaired development before the age of 3, in at least one of the following areas:
    • Receptive or expressive language used during social communication.
    • Development of selective social attachment.
    • Functional play.
  • If the clinical picture is not attributable to other disorders such as other varieties of Pervasive Developmental Disorders; specific developmental disorder of receptive language associated with secondary socio-emotional problems; Rett syndrome etc.

To arrange an assessment with one of our therapists please contact us by emailing or calling 03300 886 693.

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