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Diagnosing autism

Diagnosing autism

Autism diagnosis usually starts with a thorough interview with the parents, who describe the past development of their child, distressing behaviours or the course of pregnancy.

The risk of autism spectrum disorders is assessed through the M-CHAT-R/F screening test. The tool can also be used by a specialist to make the diagnosis, by the GP during follow-up visits or at home by the parent.

When using M-CHAT-R/F, it should be noted that the high-risk group is much broader than the number of children diagnosed with the autism spectrum. That is because such children may be included in groups with a high risk of other disorders.

Usually, a single specialist participates in meetings with the parents, but sometimes the interview may be conducted by several persons. The next stage involves careful observation of the child, usually conducted by a team consisting of a psychologist, teacher and speech therapist, who analyse the behaviour of the child during typical activities, such as playing with the parents, talking or making contact.

During this stage, it is checked how the children react to other persons, how they act when playing alone or how capable they are of following instructions. The diagnosis may involve the ADOS-2 instrument, which helps the specialist during the diagnostic process, or other tests indicated by the specialist.

The diagnostic process may include psychological tests, comprehensive hearing and eyesight assessment, blood smear test, neurological tests and surveys to be filled out by the children and their parents.

ADOS is a protocol for observation of the child’s behaviours. The test involves an assessment of symptoms characteristic to autism. The person conducting the test assesses the behaviours according to a precise score sheet.

The decision regarding the diagnosis is made after the team consults a psychiatrist. Then, a meeting is held with the parents to deliver the diagnosis. If autism spectrum disorders are identified, the parents are instructed what to do first, and they receive recommendations for their child.

Additionally, at the JiM Foundation, the diagnostic team may refer the child for an open diagnosis. It is a cycle of meetings lasting 3 or 6 months during which the specialist observes how the child behaves. After carefully observing the child in various situations, the specialist gives their opinion.

How long does it take to diagnose autism?

A reliable diagnosis of autism is a complicated process. It very frequently requires the collaboration of specialists in different areas: clinical psychology, psychiatry, medicine and special education. It is rare for a conclusive diagnosis to be made during the first meeting. 

Where can autism be diagnosed?

A consultation with a specialist is required to diagnose autism spectrum disorders. The diagnostic process may start with a referral from the GP to a facility that can make the diagnosis or with a visit to a private clinic. The JiM Foundation provides autism diagnostic services under a contract with the National Health Fund (NFZ).

Diagnosing autism in adults

Although autism spectrum disorders are usually diagnosed in children, there are situations where the diagnosis is made in an adult. In such cases, the person with suspected autism should go to a diagnostic facility.

Diagnosing adults is different from diagnosing children. The diagnostic process involves using tools and diagnostic instruments suitable for the age and behaviour of the diagnosed person.  In this case, the diagnosis may also have the form of a conversation with the diagnosed person or his or her caretaker.

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