Autism Diagnostic Evaluations

If you have concerns that your child might be displaying possible signs of an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a comprehensive evaluation may be beneficial.  Some information regarding these evaluations is provided below:

Who is qualified to diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorders?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the only specialists who can conduct diagnostic evaluation of ASD include:

  • Developmental Pediatricians
  • Child Neurologists
  • Child Psychologists or Psychiatrists

Additionally, according to recent research, “it is most important that these multi-faceted evaluations be completed by clinicians with extensive experience in the standardized testing of children with particular expertise in assessment of ASD.”

Beacon Pediatric Behavioral Health is the only facility in northeast Florida with an evaluator that has multiple credentials– Dr. Adrienne DeSantis maintains licensure in psychology (clinical child focus), national certification in school psychology, and board certification in behavior analysis.  Dr. DeSantis also has the required training and several years of experience in the assessment of ASD.  In fact, Dr. DeSantis and currently is the instructor of the ‘Assessment of Autism’ course at the University of North Florida.

What is considered “best practice” for the assessment of Autism Spectrum Disorders?

Several professional organizations and researchers have provided suggestions for ‘best practice’ parameters for the assessment of ASD.  Some of the current recommendations include:

  • Regular screening at specific pediatric ‘well-visits’ using validated screening measures
  • Standardized cognitive and developmental testing, as well as an assessment of language, to assist in the differentiation of ASD from other developmental difficulties.
  • A “multidisciplinary” approach, meaning that “multiple areas of functioning should be considered” (the involvement of “multi-member diagnostic teams” is not necessary, rather the evaluator should consider information about the child’s abilities across areas like language, fine motor skills, etc.)
  • At minimum, the inclusion of a parent interview and an “observational assessment of the child’s current functioning by an experienced clinician in a context in which social-communicative behavior and play or peer interaction can be observed.”

Beacon Pediatric Behavioral Health abides by these provided guidelines when conducting ASD assessments.  We believe that differential diagnosis is a critical component of an evaluation, especially in seemingly complex cases.