As a parent support specialist with Help Me Grow Utah, I sometimes get asked questions regarding receiving an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis. Frequent questions often sound like: Does Help Me Grow screen for autism? My pediatrician administered the M-CHAT to my child and it said he is at high risk-- doesn't that count as a diagnosis? My child just received an autism diagnosis-- what does she need now?
For any parent that has similar questions, this post will be focused on answering those questions.
What it Takes to Get an Official Diagnosis
No, Help Me Grow Utah does not screen for ASD at this time, though our Social-Emotional Ages and Stages Questionnaire does catch red flags that might indicate a need for further screening for autism. The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) does not diagnose autism spectrum disorder, but it does screen for it and may relay the need for further evaluation. ASD often requires hours of testing with valid and reliable psychometric tests, administered by specially trained professionals.
Professionals that are qualified to administer evaluations include Developmental Pediatricians, Child Neurologists, and Child Psychologists and Psychiatrists. Before even getting to this evaluation part, one should generally follow this flow chart, found in this article:
Here at Help Me Grow, we fit the first rung for developmental screenings. The screenings we provide, free of charge, start at two months and go to five and a half years. To get started, you can fill one out on this site and we will call you with the results within a week!
Though Early Intervention (EI) does not diagnose ASD and often doesn't offer Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, there are still many benefits to receiving a [free] evaluation and services from it. For one, they can rule out other areas of concern through their evaluation, such as hearing problems or other developmental delays. Second, they create an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) to create goals and schedule services that work on areas of concern, which include ASD concerns. Third, most of these services will be needed even if they go on to receive further ASD evaluation and diagnosis (i.e., speech therapy, occupational therapy, sign language, sensory integration, etc.).
Comprehensive evaluations for ASD take 8-10 hours and often have a waitlist. Insurance sometimes helps cover the cost, but you will need to get specifics from your insurance provider. To find an agency or office that conducts these evaluations, visit this website that is generally kept uptodate: Autism Evaluations.
What to Do Next
So your child just received an official ASD diagnosis-- now what? If you are one to do your own research, please be wary of all the "interventions" that you might find out there. Ask yourself if the interventions are reliable, scientifically sound, or if it is just a theory someone has that is not actually evidenced-based.
An evidence-based intervention that is well-known is called Applied Behavior Analysis (better known as ABA therapy). Not only is it individualized for each person, but is also backed up by half a century's worth of research. To find locations that offer ABA therapy from licensed professionals, search this site.
Once your child is receiving an intervention, it is also crucial to receive an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) at their preschool or school. This insures that they receive the needed aides and structure to help your child thrive in school. If you are unsure how to retrieve those services, and would like someone who can help you understand how to help your child get what they need, the Utah Parent Center would love to assist you! They have individuals ready to assist families on their journey of IEPs and other services children with an ASD diagnosis need.
We are fortunate to live at a period of time and location with so many resources for individuals with a variety of needs. If you are a parent with concerns about ASD for one of your children or are unsure what to do for a child who has already received a diagnosis, there is so much assistance out there to help you navigate this confusing journey in your life! Be sure to take advantage of the resources we have today, and remember that you are your child's biggest advocate. If you have any questions or concerns along the way, any parent support specialist at Help Me Grow Utah would be happy to help!