Worried your child is not developing as he or he should, and suspect autism? What is an autism test, and how can you get one for your child?
What is autism?
Autism, officially called ‘autism spectrum disorder’ (ASD), is classified as a developmental disorder. This means your child has different behaviours and ways of communicating. The main signs of autism in children are:
Autism is usually noticeable within the first three years of your child’s life. Some children hit normal developmental markers as an infant, then show difficulties only as a toddler. Even if missed by parents and caregivers, these developmental issues then become evident when your child starts school.
But my kid is not like other children with autism
Recent changes mean that ‘autism spectrum disorder’ is a diagnostic given to a wide range (‘spectrum’) of behaviours. On one end, some children have autism that makes daily life a serious challenge. And they might also have connected health issues like epilepsy, or issues with joint mobility.
On the other end of things, children with what was formerly called ‘Asperger’s syndrome’, are now also considered as having autism spectrum disorder. They might get by at school, and manage what seems an ‘ordinary’ enough life. In fact Asperger’s is not always caught at a young age, but can start to show during later life changes, like going to university or starting a job.
In summary, autism affects each child differently. Some children grow into adults with independent lives, and others require ongoing support to help them manage. What matters is recognising your child’s strengths, helping them achieve their unique potential, and getting help for what they struggle with (and support for yourself if you feel overwhelmed).
What is an autism test?
An autism test is not just a series of questions, nor is it as simple as a blood test.
In fact you can’t find autism using a medical test. This said, a thorough medical examination is part of the process to rule out other physical conditions that can affect a child’s development, like down’s syndrome. And autism testing will include testing your child’s hearing and vision.
An autism test is rather a very thorough set of screenings and evaluations that can involve one or several specialists.
This can include an educational psychotherapist, child psychiatrist, paediatrician, and speech and language therapist.
Your specialist will ask you many questions about your child’s behaviour and health, but also about your family history. They will likely then talk to your child’s GP as well as his or her school, and teachers.
And the specialist will of course observe your child’s behaviours and interactions. This might involve several appointments, where your child is asked to try specific activities to measure their skills. Note that everything will be done to put your child at ease during this process.
In some cases, such as with an educational psychologist, the specialist will visit your child at school and observe them in a classroom environment.
Related health conditions to autism
Autism often develops alongside other health conditions. Your specialist will be able to spot these and can offer a dual diagnosis. They can involve:
Other learning issues like:
Physical health issues:
- dyspraxia (co-ordination disorder)
- hypermobile joints
- Ehlers-Danos syndromes (connective tissues issues)
- sleep difficulties.
Mental health issues:
At what age should I get my child tested for autism?
The earliest testing in the UK for autism is usually between 18-24 months, using a test called CHAT (Checklist for Autism in Toddlers).
But, according to the charity Child Autism UK, actual diagnosis is rarely given before the age of two, and in fact most diagnoses happen after a child starts school, at aged five.
Delaying having your child tested, as you worry he or she will then be stigmatised? Or making excuses like, ‘my child will grow out of it’, ‘he or she is just naughty’, ‘he is just shy’?
It’s important to keep in mind that research shows an earlier diagnosis can lead to better long-term outcomes for children.
And keep in mind that your child’s developmental difficulties could stem from something different than autism, including physical health issues. So it is important to seek help.
When will my child stop having autism?
Autism is unfortunately not something that just goes away, or has a cure. But it can be managed. This can look like help for your child at school, learning new ways of communicating with your child, and practical support for your child and your family.
Can I use an online autism test?
It’s true you can now find an ‘autism test’ online. Of course such tests are not thorough, mostly designed for teens and adults, and can only give you a general idea.
If you are already anxious about your child’s wellbeing, using an online test can simply make you feel worse. It simply doesn’t offer the support and plan of action that a proper assessment would.
So yes, you can take an online test, but note that schools and councils won’t accept this as an assessment, so it won’t allow you to access any kind of aid. You will still need to seek a proper diagnosis.
How can I get my my child tested for autism?
Talk to your GP and/or your child’s school if you have concerns. If they feel there is a need, they should arrange for a specialist.
Note that you can also choose to test your child privately. Although this is at your cost, some parents prefer an outside opinion with a specialist they can screen and choose for themselves. This also avoids the often lengthy waiting times of seeing an autism specialist on the NHS.
Interested in private help for your child? Harley Therapy connects you with some of London’s to child psychologists who can support autism (post diagnosis). We can also help if you recognise some symptoms in yourself and wondering if you should get assessed for autism as an adult.
Still have a question about what is an autism test and how you can get one for your child? Or want to share your experience of getting your autistic child help with other readers? Use the public comment box below. All comments are moderated to protect our readers, and we do not allow advertising.