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Autism Spectrum Disorders

School Children

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition affecting the development of communication and social interaction skills and patterns of behavior. ASD, as the name suggests, exists on the spectrum. At one end of it, a person may experience discomfort or awkwardness in interacting with others that does not become problematic until later in life when increased social demands begin to present challenges in daily interactions. They may experience no cognitive problems and even excel in certain areas, though subtle cognitive difficulties, particularly in executive functioning, may be present. They may, for example, have trouble staying organized, planning, regulating their emotions, or staying focused for a prolonged period of time. At the most severe end of the spectrum, a person may experience marked impairment in social interactions, language, and sensory functioning, as well as significant cognitive challenges, thus requiring a great deal of support.

For some individuals, the symptoms can be associated with a known medical or genetic condition (e.g., epilepsy, Fragile X syndrome) while for others no such condition has been identified. Since ASD is a developmental disorder, the symptoms are present and typically noted early on. However, in milder cases, these symptoms may not become fully apparent until later in life when the person is faced with demands that exceed their capacities.  Because ASD encompasses  a wide range of presentations,  it can be at times confused with other neurodevelopmental or psychiatric conditions with similar presentations, such as ADHD, intellectual disabilities, language-based or nonverbal learning disorders, developmental motor disorders, psychotic disorders, and even intellectual giftedness. In many cases, ASD co-occurs with one of more of these conditions. Then each needs to be evaluated and properly addressed.

To accurately diagnose ASD, it is imperative to get a detailed early developmental history and in-depth information about the person’s functioning in various areas from early childhood until present. In addition to the tests specifically evaluating the ASD symptoms, tests assessing intellectual, cognitive, and language functioning as well as adaptive, day-to-day functioning are included in a thorough assessment to help determine the level of severity, identify the areas of strength and weakness and help device a comprehensive plan that would best support each individual. I offer ASD evaluations for both children and adults whether this is the first time you’re seeking the diagnosis or already have received ah ASD and are looking for a more in-depth evaluation.

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