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Diagnosing Autism

Inconsistent and unreliable methods are often used to diagnose autism because the specific, accepted standards which have been set forth by the National Research Council (2001), are not consistently implemented by diagnosticians. Additionally, specific qualifications (e.g., number of years of training, autism coursework and practicums) for those diagnosing autism have not been required by many medical and behavioral professional organizations. Unfortunately, this has led to a significant number of persons having other behavioral, emotional, or developmental disorders being misdiagnosed as autism. Based on recommendations by the National Research Council (2001), the following evidenced-based assessment areas and protocols should be included in a comprehensive evaluation for autism:

Health, developmental, behavioral histories
Physical exam
Developmental evaluation
Standardized assessment tools and protocols which include structured observation of behaviors included in the DSM IV criteria for ASD.
Parent knowledge base/support needs
Laboratory investigation to search for a known etiology or coexisting condition