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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, re