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How Is Autism Diagnosed?

By Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, B.Sc., M.D., Ph.D.

Article printed in the January 2-3, 2005 issue
Reprinted on page 14, in the January 17-18, 2009 issue
Reprinted under the title: Diagnosis Begins with Suspicion
on page 23, in the August 25, 2010 issue of The Mississauga News
under the feature: Health &Beauty, Medicine Matters.
Portrait of Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, supplied 2005
Dr. Peter W. Kujtan

Autism is a disorder of behavior. Like many other similar disorders, it takes careful and repeated observation to diagnose autism. There is no simple blood test or x-ray that will reveal it. Autism is a neurobehavioral disorder that seems to affect males more often than females.

In the early part of childhood, small differences begin to arise. It may be an obvious inability to communicate despite having speech, vision and hearing capabilities. Repetitive movements such as head rocking may be present which occur over and over again. There appears to be a failure to develop optimal language and social skills.

It is possible to look for earlier signs of autism in infancy, such as the lack of babbling and failure to produce words and word groups. Most practitioners will refrain from making a premature diagnosis since it serves little to aid treatment.

The pre-school age tends to reveal more atypical features that help diagnosis. These may include abnormal eye movements and failure to make eye contact when communicating, or failing to respond to their name when addressed directly.

Autistic children seem to have no interest in playing with other children and may ignore major commotions in their vicinity. These children also tend not to use body postures or hand gestures to communicate such as head nodding or pointing when they desire something.

Autism may exist in varying degrees from mild to severe. About 1 in 1000 or more children is affected. There is no cure since no one has convincingly proven that any type of structural abnormality exists.

These kids do not have impaired intelligence. By making a diagnosis before they enter the school system, most can reach some level of acceptable functioning. Drugs play only a minor role in some cases. More importantly, autistic youngsters may require assistance from a whole team of differing professionals such as psychiatrists, audiologists, speech-pathologists and psychologists.

Diagnosis merely starts with a suspicion.


Related resources:


Autism from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Autism Resource Center from American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). "Autism is a condition which is usually diagnosed before a child is three. Autistic children have delayed speech or no speech at all, problems interacting socially, limited interests and odd or repetitive behaviors. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder caused by abnormal brain development and functioning. Many children with autism also have an intellectual disability." Choose a topic to learn more about Autism. Includes FAQs.

ABA Therapy for Autism by Kim Barloso, AB, Dec. 3, 2020. "ABA stands for Applied Behavior Analysis which a behavior centred therapy based on the science of learning. ABA is a method of treating people with autism by modifying behavior using positive reinforcement ... ABA Therapy is the most common therapy for children with autism and is considered the most established and well-documented approach due to its scientific and systematic nature." Download your FREE guide on ABA Therapy for Autism.

Sensory Overload by Holly Marsden, businesscostsaver.co.uk. "Autism and sensory overload often go hand in hand. People on the autistic spectrum are frequently overwhelmed by sensory input. This is commonly referred to as Sensory Processing Disorder, or SPD." Contents include: Sensory Overload Explained. What Causes Sensory Overload? What Happens When Somebody Experiences Sensory Overload? Is Sensory Overload a Medical Condition? How Can Sensory Overload be Managed? How Can Sensory Overload be Avoided?

Digital Resources for Students with Autism. Assistive Technology for Students with Autism. Helpful Resources for Teachers and Parents from Teach.com.

Screening and Diagnosis of Autism in PDF. American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Guideline Summary for Clinicians.

Autism Spectrum Disorder. Also called: ASD, Pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) from MedlinePlus.

Autism - diagnosis and consultation from Body and Health, Canada.com.

A Parent's Handbook: Your Guide to Autism Programs (in British Columbia, Canada) in PDF, 36 pages. Contents include: What is Autism Spectrum Disorder? Early Indicators of Autism Spectrum Disorder. What to Do if You Think Your Child May Have Autism. What Causes Autism Spectrum Disorder? Is There a Cure? My Child Has a Diagnosis of ASD. What Do I Do? Autism Funding: Under Age 6, Ages 6 - 18.

Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder: Fact Sheet from Wrights Law.

Autism Spectrum Disorder Fact Sheet from National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

Autism Fact Sheet - Guide for Parents of Autistic Children from Child Development Institute.

Autism Resources For Parents - The Ultimate Help Guide for Families from Autism Parenting Magazine.

Autisms commonalities with ADHD / ASD - Autism Spectrum Disorders from Retrain the Brain. "For reasons yet unidentified, autism has become an epidemic in America over the last couple of decades. The number of children diagnosed with autism has risen from one in 2,000 to one in 150 today."

Suggested Classroom Interventions for Children with ADD and Learning Disabilities from Child Development Institute.

What is sensory overload, and who gets it? What does sensory overload actually feel like? What are the signs of sensory overload in children? Tips for helping your loved one cope with sensory overload while shopping.

Autism Support Network Resources. Resources in Your Area (Search from Countries A-Z). Other Resources include: Books and Videos, Conferences, Education, Grants, Research, Tools.d

At a Glance: Classroom Accommodations for ADHD by Amanda Morin, Understood for Learning and Attention Issues.

Estate Planning for Parents of Children with Autism from Just Great Lawyers.

Sleep Help for People with Autism Spectrum Disorder from Weighted Journal. Topics include:
- What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)? How Can ASD Affect Sleep?
- Help for ASD-related Sleep Problems.
- Additional Behavioral Interventions.
- Notable Blogs That Focus on Autism Spectrum Disorder.
- Best Forums That Focus on ASD.
- Some of the Best Books on Sleep Issues with ASD.
- Organizations You Can Turn To for Help.
- General Sleep Products That Might Help Children and Adults.
- Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder - How to Sleep Better?
- Nutrition and Exercise.

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