I got another question from a friend that I will answer here (as well as privately). The nuts and bolts of the question: how does one get a diagnosis?
Good question! We've discussed what to say or not to say if you suspect autism in others, but not how to get an autism diagnosis.
There is no medical test for autism; no blood or genetic test*. It's all done by observation and assessment. You can screen for autism using the M-CHAT which was discussed earlier this month. But an actual diagnosis involves a multi-disciplinary team that includes a child psychologist, speech and occupational therapists, a pediatrician, and possibly others. Our "diagnosis day" lasted an entire day, meeting with these professionals while the others did their assessments & observations with T.
It is possible (I believe) for a pediatric neurologist, child/adolescent psychiatrist, or developmental pediatrician to do a diagnosis as well. You may not get as comprehensive an evaluation as the multi-disciplinary team approach, but it might be quicker to get in with one of these professionals. I know that the waiting list for a diagnosis screening appointment at one of our local children's hospitals can range anywhere from 6 months up to nearly a year. More diagnostic centers are available each year, but there is still a wait.
Here are some websites that may be helpful:
And if you are in Indiana, the excellent Indiana Resource Center for Autism saves the day again with their "How and Where to Obtain a Diagnosis/Assessment in Indiana" publication:
Taking the step of getting a diagnosis can be scary. Believe me, I know. In many ways, it was nice to keep my head in the sand for a while before T got his diagnosis. But as tough as it was, it also gave us direction & motivation. May it do the same for any of you considering a diagnosis, or for one of your friends considering it.
*While there is no medical test for autism, there may be some underlying medical conditions that contribute to the autism-like symptoms. Also, genetic testing may be ordered to rule out other conditions.