CABD Fact Sheet
Choosing Professionals & Coordinating Services
Because autism and its related disabilities are difficult to diagnose, a child may be evaluated by a
iriety of professionals before a final diagnosis is determined.
Unless specifically trained in the area of developmental disabilities, physicians and psychologists
S may have little experience with autism spectrum disorders. Many have never seen a child with autism
Sr a related disability such as PDD-NOS (pervasive development disorder not otherwise specified),
Rett's syndrome, or Asperger's syndrome when a parent brings their child in with the first signs of the
The following are brief descriptions of the specialists most commonly associated with diagnosis,
intervention, and treatment of autism spectrum disorder and suggestions about how to select
professionals to work with you and your child.
Developmental Pediatrician: A physician specializing in diagnosing and treating children with
developmental disabilities from birth to adolescence.
Psychiatrist: A physician who focuses on diagnosing and treating mental illnesses from a biological
and psychological perspective and may prescribe various medications for treatment.
Psychologist: A licensed practitioner specializing in understanding a person's behavior, emotions,
and cognitive skills. They may recommend strategies to aid growth and development or help with
Neurologist/Pediatric Neurologist: A physician specializing in diagnosing and treating disorders
of the nervous system.
Geneticist: A physician specializing in the study of disorders associated with heredity.
The Selection Process
Choosing a professional is not always easy. When choosing a professional to work with you and
your child, it's important to look for someone who shows respect for the parents and regards parents
as experts on their children.
The professional should convey a sense of hope and have a philosophy similar to your own. Look
for a professional who takes an individualized approach to treatment and intervention one who
does not say that all people with autism exhibit the same characteristics.
Based on your child's needs, it will take various professionals working together with you to develop
a treatment and intervention plan. The most effective treatment of people with autism almost always
involves a long term team approach.
Visits to the classroom, home, and community usually provide the most useful information about
the child. Since frequent visits may not be possible, the professional may collect information through
interviews and questionnaires.
Just as professionals ask many questions, so should you. Remember, no questions you have
regarding your child are trivial or unimportant. You may want to ask some of the following questions
of the physicians and therapists:
SSA S + What are my child's strengths? How can they be maximized?
+ What specific activities or interventions should I do at home?
+ What kind of testing and evaluations should my child have?
Why should my child have these tests and evaluations?
+ How is each test or evaluation performed?
+ How will the results influence my child's intervention or treatment?
+ Can you put me in touch with another family you are currently working with?
+ Do you have any articles or resources on autism or autism spectrum disorders?
+ Can I have a copy of your report? How soon will it be until I receive it?
Obtaining and reviewing all reports is very helpful in understanding
your child's needs, progress, and how recommendations can maximize
your child's potential.
Sometimes evaluations and recommendations may be different or
conflicting. This can be confusing and exhausting. A case manager or service
coordinator can help when questions, problems, or concerns arise.
A case manager keeps current records and, when appropriate,
shares information about a child with professionals involved in that
child's care. It's one very effective way to make sure a child's needs are
Case managers may also help by making sure all appointments
are scheduled, tests are performed, evaluations conducted, and that
appropriate and effective follow-up care is being provided.
If an evaluation has been performed at a Child Development and
Evaluation Center or if the child is receiving services through a state
funded program, chances are that one person has been designated as
a service coordinator or case manager.
If this is not the case, you can ask for help from your pediatrician
or family physician, local Autism Society of America chapter, your
local school district special education department, or CARD.
Some parents elect to perform this role themselves.
Parents and professionals communicating effectively and
respectfully as partners is an important factor in achieving progress
and success for any person with autism or a related disability.
Working as a team by sharing information and responsibility can
be the most effective approach when developing a treatment plan.
Parents often have the best understanding of their children's
behavior, communication, preferences, and motivations.
Professionals may suggest various ways to help a child but parents
know what activities are practical for their family life. Parental
perspective is integral when developing an intervention plan.
Professionals, specializing in autism and related disabilities, have
specific knowledge and training with regard to evaluation and
development of education and treatment plans.
By working together and respecting each other as equally
important partners in a child's care, parents and professionals can
optimize the potential for a child's development.
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For More Information Contact:
Center for Autism and Related Disabilities Sites:
Florida State University
625-B North Adams St.
Tallahassee, FL 32301
(800) 769-7926 or (850) 644-4367
University of South Florida
13301 Bruce B. Downs Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33612-3899
(800) 333-4530 or (813) 974-2532
Fax: (813) 974-6115
University of Florida at Gainesville
P. O. Box 100234
Gainesville, FL 32610-0234
(800) 754-5891 or (352) 846-2761
Fax: (352) 846-0941
University of Florida at Jacksonville
6271 St. Augustine Rd, Suite 1
Jacksonville, FL 32217
Phone: (904) 633-0760
Fax: (904) 633-0751
University of Central Florida
12001 Science Drive, Suite 145
Orlando, FL 32826
(888) 558-1908 or (407) 737-2566
Fax (407) 737-2571
University of Miami
Dept. of Psychology
5665 Ponce de Leon Boulevard
PO Box 248768
Coral Gables, FL 33124-0725
800/9-AUTISM or 305/284-6563
Florida Atlantic University
Dept. of ESE
777 Glades Road
Boca Raton, FL 33431
(888) 632-6395 or (561) 297-2023
Fax (561) 297-2063
Factsheet Center for Autism & Related Disabilities