The road to diagnosing an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is often a winding one. When autism is suspected, typically the first step is for parents to share their concerns and discuss symptomology with their child’s pediatrician. From there, the pediatrician may refer the child for a comprehensive diagnostic screening by an ASD specialist. Tyler Arban, MS, LLP, is the Assistant Director of Diagnostic Services at Gateway Pediatric Therapy, which offers diagnostic services for children with Wayne County Medicaid. He conducts autism evaluations alongside other licensed clinical psychologists who are part of the Gateway team. He wants families to know what they can expect and how they can best prepare themselves and their child for an evaluation.
Preparing for the diagnostic evaluation
“The diagnostic evaluation can be an extensive process consisting of many questions, assessments and observations,” notes Arban, who works out of Gateway’s Dearborn and Livonia locations. “It can run upwards of two to four hours and sometimes even longer.” As far as what to tell the child about the impending diagnostic evaluation, Arban suggests for parents whose children struggle with transitions or with doctor’s appointments to talk to them in advance about what will happen throughout the evaluation. “The one caveat is that we do want to see them being themselves,” Arban notes. “Ultimately, the goal of this process is to determine a proper diagnosis; we need to observe a true representation of the child to do so.”
Throughout the diagnostic process, Gateway psychologists work with both the child and the parents. “During the child’s diagnostic evaluation, we want the parents to be involved,” Arban says. “We’re looking for little overtures. For example, is the child giving their parent toys? Are they asking their parent to look at something? Are they seeking comfort? We want to see how the child interacts with their parents.” Since this process can be quite lengthy, Arban recommends parents to make sure their child gets a good night’s sleep and eats a healthy breakfast. In addition, he suggests dressing comfortably and packing snacks. Other tips include asking for breaks and bringing support in the form of additional family members. “Support members could be grandparents or siblings, for example,” Arban says. “Anyone who will be helpful to you.”
Arban also strongly encourages parents to bring any supplemental resources that may help in the diagnostic process. These could include an Individualized Education Program (IEP), medical records or past evaluations. Similarly, he advises parents to speak with the child’s school or daycare to gain a sense of their child’s social skills and interactions. “Any information that parents think could be beneficial for us to look at – bring it,” Arban says.
Feedback is essential
At the conclusion of the evaluation, the Gateway psychologists involved will come together and review their collective results. “After the assessments have been completed, we review the results of each assessment, discuss the results, what was seen and determine whether we think those observations are indicative of an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis or a differential diagnosis,” Arban explains. After about a week, Gateway will call the parents to schedule a follow-up appointment to share the findings. “During this session, we discuss the results, concerns, feelings, recommendations and next steps,” Arban says. One of those next steps is discussing Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy and whether and where the family will choose to pursue it. Arban says, “Regardless of what the family chooses to do, we help them through the process.”
For more information on the diagnostic process and the services provided by Gateway Pediatric Therapy, call 248-221-2573, send an email to email@example.com or visit the Gateway blog at GatewayPediatricTherapy.com/newsroom/.