Autism Diagnostic Clinic

four toddler sitting at a table playing with connectible toys and interacting happily with someone who is not in the image; credit: iStock

About the Autism Diagnostic Clinic

A major focus of the Autism Diagnostic Clinic in the integrated Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders is to provide a multi-disciplinary evaluation to determine if a child meets the diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder and other related disorders.

A secondary focus is to work directly with families and care providers to develop appropriate recommendations and provide referrals to address primary behavioral concerns.

Clinic Schedule

The Autism Diagnostic Clinic meets every Tuesday and runs from approximately 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

What is autism spectrum disorder?  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates one in 54 8-year-old children were identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in 2016. Symptoms for autism spectrum disorder are divided into two distinct categories, including:

  • impairments in social communication and social interaction, and
  • restricted and repetitive behaviors and interests, such as repetitive motor movements and abnormally intense interests.

Symptoms can range from mild to severe and must involve impairments in social communication, problems with social interaction and abnormal patterns of behavior.

What are the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder?  

MMI professionals have the expertise to treat all of the symptoms of autism. Because no two children with autism are alike, individualized treatment is vital. Treatment can focus on one or all of the aspects of autism, depending on the child’s needs. Symptoms vary but may include:

Core symptoms
  • repetitive behavior
  • delays or deficits in speech
  • delays deficits in non-verbal communication (e.g., use of gestures, facial expressions)
  • poor social skills
  • eye-contact issues
  • lack of empathy
  • restricted interests
Associated symptoms
  • tantrums
  • self-injurious behavior
  • aggressive behavior towards themselves and others
  • delays in toilet training
  • difficulties with sleep
  • food selectivity
What types of services are offered?  

Our diagnostic evaluation is a two-part process that includes two appointments. The first appointment involves a clinical interview, and the second appointment is when the comprehensive evaluation takes place.

Clinical Interview Appointment

The clinical interview, occurs before the comprehensive evaluation. The appointment may be offered via a video appointment (i.e., telehealth) or in person, depending on your family’s needs and insurance. During the clinical interview, you and your child will meet with a licensed psychologist. Some families may meet with a licensed psychologist and a psychology trainee who is working under the supervision of the licensed psychologist (e.g., predoctoral interns, post-doctoral psychology fellows).

The clinical interview is a semi-structured interview that is designed to gather information in areas of developmental, medical and academic history, as well as to gather information about how the child engages in social, communicative, and emotional interactions with others the presence or absence of restricted and repetitive behaviors. We will ask you a lot of questions about your child.

During the clinical interview, the provider will observe your child. The unstructured observation is designed to provide an opportunity for the provider(s) to observe how your child plays and interacts with others in his or her environment.

ADC (Comprehensive Evaluation) Appointment

  • Speech & Language Evaluation
    If your child has speech delays or difficulties and has not received a speech and language evaluation, our speech pathology team will use a variety of formal and informal test measures to evaluate three broad areas of your child’s communication: speech, language, and social skills. Speech involves the sounds that your child produces and how those sounds are combined to form words and sentences. Language involves what your child understands, as well as the gestures, words, and sentences that your child uses to communicate with others. Social skills involve how your child uses their nonverbal and verbal language to communicate with others in greetings, conversations, etc.
  • Developmental/Cognitive Functioning
    Based on your child’s age and language skills, your child will be administered a standardized assessment to determine their developmental or cognitive functioning. Our clinic has several assessments that may be used for your child. Selection of an appropriate measure will depend on a number of factors (e.g., your child’s language skills and age).

  • Autism Diagnostic Schedule-2 (ADOS-2)
    The Autism Diagnostic Schedule-2 is considered by many  the gold-standard assessment for evaluating possible symptoms of ASD. The ADOS-2 is a semi-structured, standardized assessment of communication, social interaction, play, and restricted and repetitive behaviors.  It presents various activities that elicit behaviors directly related to a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.

    By observing and coding these behaviors, examiners can obtain information that informs diagnosis, and treatment planning. The ADOS-2 consists of modules associated with various ages and communication levels. Your child’s ADOS-2 module will be carefully selected to ensure the most accurate and appropriate assessment tool possible for your child.

    Depending on the module selected for your child, you may be asked to be present and assist with certain aspects of the assessment. Pay careful attention to the examiner, and follow any directions he or she may have for you during your child’s ADOS-2.

Questionnaires

During the comprehensive evaluation, you may be asked to complete several surveys or questionnaires so we may learn more about your child’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, you may be asked to complete a questionnaire about your child’s adaptive skills.

Feedback Session

Typically, the feedback session occurs on the day of your appointment. During the feedback session the diagnostic team will review assessment results with your family and use this information to determine if your child’s behavioral symptoms meet the diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder and/or other related disorders. In addition to diagnosis, the diagnostic team works with families to develop appropriate recommendations and referrals to aid in ongoing access to assessment and treatment. If the feedback session needs to be scheduled at a later date, your clinician will discuss options with you and your family. The family will receive a comprehensive evaluation report from the diagnostic team approximately two to four weeks after your appointment.

Who does the autism diagnostic clinic serve?  

The program provides services to children as young as 1 to 2 1/2 years old through late adolescence.