Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that scientists believe has a strong genetic component. However, unlike other genetic conditions, there is no blood analysis, brain scan, or other test that can diagnose autism.
Instead, doctors and psychologists diagnose ASD by analyzing the patient’s history and monitoring their behavior. For example, qualified experts can make a diagnosis based on:
- Patient observation
- Patient interviews
- Cognitive and language ability tests
- Interviews with parents, teachers, caregivers, or other adults
But not just anyone can make a diagnosis. If you believe your child has autism, choose a professional with experience. The right professional should have experience diagnosing individuals with autism and working with the range of symptoms typical to this disorder.
Once your child has a diagnosis, you can apply to receive treatment in one of our programs at Therapeutic Pathways. We do not diagnose autism, but we do provide high-quality, compassionate treatment to every child, teenager, and adult in our care.
Call (209) 422-3280 for more information, and keep reading to learn who can diagnose autism.
Who is Qualified to Diagnose Autism: Developmental Pediatricians (Developmental-Behavioral Pediatricians)
Developmental pediatricians are medical doctors who possess the training and experience to diagnose autism and other developmental difficulties. These professionals consider the medical and psychosocial elements of children’s behavior problems and provide counsel and treatment accordingly.
Every developmental pediatrician completes the following:
- Four years of medical school
- Three years of residency training in pediatrics
- Board certification in pediatrics
- Subspecialty training in developmental-behavioral pediatrics
These pediatricians can diagnose a range of developmental and behavioral issues, including:
- Delayed development in speech, language, and motor skills
- Developmental disabilities including cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and autism
- Learning disorders like dyslexia
- Attention disorders including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Habit disorders, including Tourette syndrome
Who is Qualified to Diagnose Autism: Child Psychologists
Child psychologists study children’s social, emotional, and mental development. These professionals typically observe a child’s development from the prenatal period through adolescence to diagnose and treat developmental, social, and emotional issues.
There are three main concentrations in child psychology: adolescent psychology, developmental child psychology, and abnormal child psychology. Whatever their concentration, child psychologists must meet robust education and training criteria.
Most child psychologists complete the following education and training. Some find opportunities with a Master’s degree, but most choose to earn a Ph.D. or, increasingly, a Psy.D.:
- Four-year undergraduate degree
- Master’s or doctoral degree (5-7 years)
- State licensure issued by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Board
- Board certification from the American Board of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology (ABCCAP) or American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP)
Child psychologists have the education and supervised clinical experience necessary to diagnose and treat a range of disorders, including:
- Disruptive behavior disorders
- Identity and self-esteem problems
- Mental disorders including anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Who is Qualified to Diagnose Autism: Child Psychiatrists
Child psychiatrists are doctors who diagnose and treat various behavioral disorders in children. Psychiatrists differ from psychologists in that they are licensed physicians and they can prescribe medication while psychologists cannot (with a few exceptions).
Child psychiatrists must meet rigorous education and training criteria before earning a license. This includes:
- Bachelor’s degree
- Medical doctorate
- Psychiatric residency
- Board certification as a psychiatrist
- Two-year pediatric psychiatry fellowship
Psychiatrists can create a treatment plan based on your child’s biological and psychological makeup. This could include medication, behavioral therapy, or a combination of the two.
Child psychiatrists can diagnose and treat the following mental health conditions:
- Pervasive developmental disorder
- Learning disabilities
- Mood disorders
- Depression, anxiety, and related disorders
Who is Qualified to Diagnose Autism: Pediatric Neurologists
Pediatric neurologists are medical doctors who treat children with conditions caused by problems in their nervous system. Those problems can begin in the spine, muscles, nerves, or the brain itself, and can cause developmental delays, headaches, or seizures.
Pediatric neurologists complete the following education and training:
- Four years of medical school
- At least one to two years of residency training in general pediatrics
- One to two years of subspecialty fellowship training (epilepsy, neuromuscular disease, etc.)
Among other things, pediatric neurologists can diagnose and treat the following conditions:
- Seizures and epilepsy
- Headaches and migraines
- Muscular dystrophy or neuropathy
- Behavioral disorders including ADHD, Tourette Syndrome, and sleep problems
- Developmental disorders and delays, including cerebral palsy, delayed speech, and motor skills
- Stroke and traumatic brain injury (TBI)
Treatment for Children With Autism
If you believe your child has autism, it’s important that you visit a medical professional with the knowledge and experience necessary to make a diagnosis. Even if your child has a different developmental or mental disorder, the correct doctor can diagnose and help your child receive treatment.
If your child does have autism, the right doctor can help you find avenues for treatment. At Therapeutic Pathways certified behavior analysts work to help children grow and develop to catch up with their peers.
For more information, call Therapeutic Pathways at (209) 422-3280.