What to expect at your autism evaluation appointment
Diagnosing autism spectrum disorder is not a simple process. It involves experienced and highly-trained professionals who gather information from you, your child, and their school or care providers to determine if your child has autism and how best to support them.
How long does the evaluation take?
Depending on your child’s particular needs, age and background, you may have one appointment or multiple appointments, each lasting about two to three hours.
What specialists will we see?
Depending on your child’s needs, your family will be supported by one or more specialty providers. Our experts include clinical psychologists, developmental pediatricians, speech pathologists, and occupational therapists.
We will tell you at the time of scheduling how many visits will be needed, how long each visit will last, and what providers you will see for your child’s tailored evaluation. All of the specialists you see at Children’s Mercy will collaborate on your child’s diagnosis and plan of care, and communicate with you and your primary care doctor throughout the process.
What is the evaluation like?
Our evaluation process has three parts:
- Review of school/outside information
- Parent/caregiver interview
- Observation/interaction with your child
Part 1: Review of school/outside information
Your team will review the background information you provide from any outside sources, such as school/daycare, First Steps, Parents as Teachers, or other professionals and caregivers. This helps us to gather a more complete picture of your child’s development.
Part 2: Parent/caregiver interview
During your child’s evaluation, you will be asked many questions regarding your child’s past and current development and behavior. You may want to take some time before your appointment to review baby books and discuss the “early years” with family members.
The parent/caregiver interview is about half of the evaluation time. During the interview, the doctor will ask you about things like:
- Early development
- Early adaptive living skills
- Play and social skills
- Problem behaviors
- Medical/family history
Part 3: Observation/interaction with your child
Another key aspect of your evaluation is for our care team to spend time interacting with your child. We will play and talk with your child, and engage your child in some specific activities to help us understand your child’s strengths and weaknesses. These assessments are intentionally designed with carefully-researched components, and our professionals will work with you and your child to make the evaluation as positive an experience as possible.
Once the process is completed, your evaluation team will meet with you to review the results of the assessment. Your child may or may not be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Regardless of the evaluation’s results, we will help you understand what it is and what to do to help your child.
It may take more than one appointment to get all of the information necessary for an accurate diagnosis. Rest assured that at the end of the evaluation process, you will leave with as much information as possible, along with the next steps you can take to help your child. You will also receive a comprehensive written report describing the results and recommendations after the evaluation.
A new diagnosis of autism can be overwhelming. Your evaluation team can answer any questions you have at your appointment, and our family resource nurse and other staff members are available for anything you think of after you leave the clinic.
The evaluation team may determine that your child does not meet the criteria for autism. Your child may be diagnosed with another condition. No matter what, you will receive tailored recommendations about how best to support your child, and we will connect you with appropriate specialists either at Children’s Mercy or through other providers in the community.
Read more about autism therapy options and resources for families living with a child with an autism spectrum disorder.