CARD Fact Sheet 0
Diagnosing & Evaluating Autism: Part 2
It is essential that the process of diagnosing Autism & Related Disabilities include the assessment
and evaluation of an individual's development, communication, and social skills.
Knowing a procedure's purpose and limitations can help you understand the results more
accurately. Usually, professionals assessing children with developmental disabilities look to answer
questions such as: What areas of development are affected? Can a specific disorder be recognized?
What intervention approaches will be most effective?
Evaluation and assessment are ongoing processes. Once a diagnosis has been determined, this
process should be repeated periodically to track changes in an individual's level of functioning and to
be sure that the individual's needs and opportunities are being optimized.
Part 2 of this fact sheet includes brief descriptions of some assessments, evaluations, and instruments
administered to individuals suspected of having autism or a related disability.
Direct Observation, Interaction, & Interviews Assessments: Information about a child's emotional,
social, communication, and cognitive abilities is gathered through child-directed interactions,
observations of the child in various situations, and interviews of parents and care givers. Parents and
family members should be actively involved throughout these assessments.
What actually occurs during a specific assessment depends on what information parents and
evaluators want to know.
FunctionalAssessments aim to discover why a challenging behavior (such as tantruming and head
banging) is occurring. Based on the premise that challenging behaviors are a way of communicating,
functional assessment involves interviews, direct observations, and interactions to determine what a
child with autism or a related disability is trying to communicate through their behavior.
Once the purpose of the challenging behavior is determined, an alternative, more acceptable means
for achieving that purpose can be developed. This helps eliminate the challenging behavior.
Play-based Assessments involve adult observation and partial participation in structured and
unstructured play situations that provide information about a child's social, emotional, cognitive, and
communication development. By determining a child's learning style and interaction pattern through
play-based assessments, an individualized treatment plan can be developed.
Standardized Instruments are formal methods used to determine different levels of cognitive
development. Sometimes when a disability is so significant that it affects an individual's ability to
speak, gesture, or move, special adaptations or modifications to existing standardized instruments will
be necessary to get an accurate picture of an individual's abilities.
Rating Scales & Developmental Inventories Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, Autism Behavior
Checklist, Childhood Autism Rating Scale, and Batelle Development Inventory are examples of
standardized tests that measure a child's general developmental skills including socialization skills and
coping skills. Scores are based on parent interviews and evaluator observations.
Irell.cignce Tests (IQ) Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-
Revised, and other intelligence tests attempt to determine an individual's intelligence based on
standardized criteria. Scores are highly based on an individual's communication skills, social skills,
. and ability to accomplish specific tasks. These tests do not necessarily measure a child's true abilities,
capacities, and unique potential to learn.
Testability: Many times professionals label a child as untestablee."
This can not be considered an accurate assumption.
Individuals with autism and related disabilities may seem
uncooperative, stubborn, or withdrawn while in fact the way a test is
presented can be too difficult or complicated for them to comprehend.
In addition, the individual may not understand the language or
expectations of the test which can cause confusion and problem behavior.
There are various ways that professionals can adapt a test to try and
make it easier for an individual to understand.
Asking Questions: Some parents, especially those who have recently
learned that their child has a disability, may feel inadequate when
hearing test results. It could be because of their lack of experience and
knowledge or because of a professional's manner. Remember this is
your child. You have the right to ask any questions you want. Asking
questions is your first step in beginning to understand more about
your child. Learning as much as you can, can have a profound effect
on your child's future.
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
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