Ridge Zeller Therapy’s Dr. Eileen Leuthe, Ph.D, sheds some light on the most common questions and concerns parents have when their child receives an autism assessment:
Getting an evaluation for an autism spectrum disorder can make both a parent and child feel a little bit nervous. Here at Ridge Zeller Therapy, we are hoping to make it a little bit easier by answering some of the most common questions we get from parents about what to expect.
Who will we be meeting with?
Ridge Zeller Therapy uses a comprehensive interdisciplinary team evaluation approach, which means most children will meet with a speech-language pathologist, an occupational therapist, and a licensed clinical psychologist. This team approach helps us to develop an understanding of your child’s unique strengths and weaknesses.
What will happen during the evaluation?
On the morning of the evaluation, you will be greeted by your evaluation team. The team will meet with you and your child together to talk about the plan for the day. Very young children usually stay with their parents for most or all of the evaluation. Older children will often work with one or more of the team members while their parents are interviewed in another room. Each team member will work with both you and your child. Children will complete assessments like the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule – Second Edition. They will also be asked questions about their daily experiences (e.g., questions about school, friends, etc) and feelings. Parents will be asked about their child’s development, behavior, skills, and feelings, and will also complete some questionnaires.
What will my child do during the evaluation?
During the evaluation, your child will play games, work on activities, and answer questions. He/she will usually complete evaluations to look at cognitive skills, social communication skills, speech-language skill, and motor skills. Some of the activities will remind older children of activities that they would complete at school, while other activities will seem more like play.
How long will the evaluation take?
Most of the testing is usually completed during the first visit, which usually lasts 4 or more hours. Occasionally parents and children will return for a second (usually shorter) evaluation session. This is rare, though sometimes necessary so we can get as full and accurate evaluation of your child. There will also be a separate visit for the parents to go over all of the results of our assessment.
How is an autism diagnosis made?
The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder is made based on information about a child’s development, skills, and behaviors provided by parents (and sometimes other people in the child’s life, such as teachers) combined with careful and systematic observation of the child. When considering whether a child has an autism spectrum disorder, several behaviors are considered, such as social and communication skills, adaptive skills, and cognitive skills. The specific tests used depends on the questions being asked and the age of the child. If you have more questions, please call to talk to the schedulers to find out more about the specific tests that will be used to evaluate your child.
What should I bring to the evaluation?
It is often helpful to bring snacks, drinks, and something for your child to do if there are breaks. For younger children, a preferred toy is recommended if it will not interfere with your child’s ability to complete testing. Electronics can be useful during breaks, but if your child will become upset when it is taken away, it is probably best to leave it at home.
My child is on medication to treat ADHD. Should they take it for this evaluation?
Yes. You will be there to tell us about your child’s behavior when they are not on medication. Keeping your child on their medication for the evaluation will help us to get a clear picture of his or her social and cognitive skills.
Please contact us with any other questions or concerns. We look forward to hearing from you!