Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition that impacts the way in which a child’s brain develops. Children or adolescents with ASD have difficulties in two primary areas, namely social-communication and restricted interests and/or repetitive behaviours (RRBs). When we think of the social-communication domain, parents often notice problems in the child such as those below:
- Difficulty making or keeping eye contact
- Difficulty directing appropriate facial expressions to others
- Problems making or keeping friends
- Being unable to read social cues (i.e., like someone yawning means boredom)
- Difficulty engaging in conversations
- Not usually using gestures when he/she speaks
When we think of the RRBs domain parents usually notice some of the problems below:
- An intense interest in a particular topic like dinosaurs or trains that it is difficult to pull the child from that goes on for more than 3 months
- Sensory aversions like not liking loud noises or bright lights
- Sensory-seeking behaviours like playing in water, or looking at objects for extended periods, or from odd angles
- Repetitive motor mannerisms like flicking fingers in front of the eyes or holding hands in postures when they are not being used
- Rigid ways of doing things like needing to finish reading a book prior to moving onto other things or having special spots where things are placed in rooms
For a diagnosis of ASD to be made, a child or adolescent must exhibit at least three behavioural features from the social-communication domain and at least two from the RRBs domain. In addition, there must be evidence that the behaviours are impairing some aspect of his/her functioning.
ASD is a whole brain condition impacting multiple brain areas. Therefore, it is quite common for the child with ASD to struggle with other learning and/or mental health conditions. Moreover, there is currently no biological test to determine the presence of ASD, so we rely on detailed psychological assessments which also help to delineate patterns of cognitive and social-emotional strengths and weaknesses.
The assessment and diagnosis of ASD requires training and supervised experience beyond what is usually received by psychologists in training. At Edcommodate our psychologists will do a complete psychoeducational assessment for a child/adolescent starting at 8 years old with suspected ASD along with using specialized “gold standard” tools for its diagnosis including the ADOS-2 and the ADIR where necessary.
Parents are provided with detailed feedback about the client’s strengths, weaknesses, any relevant diagnoses and programming recommendations for school and community-based support.