Autism Spectrum Disorder Testing

Autism is a condition that requires specialized evaluation, diagnosis and support

What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism is a neurodevelopmental variance. Much like we have differences in eye color and varying talents, we have different neurotypes. While it can be classified as a disorder, autism is not a mental illness. The autistic mind works differently than a non-autistic, or neurotypical, mind. It’s something to be accepted and accommodated, not challenged.

Young woman sitting on bed covering her face with her hands while crying. Mental health concept, anxiety, depression and frustration.

Common Symptoms of Autism

Some of the autism symptoms often seen in children and adults include:

  • Feeling socially excluded: : A 2017 study found that due to their social awkwardness, individuals with autism are often excluded from conversations in social settings. This social exclusion can lead to a persistent feeling of isolation.
  • Difficulty with social cues: An autistic person may have difficulty understanding the emotions of others. This makes social interaction awkward. They prefer direct communication and struggle with interjecting in conversations. To make socializing easier, an autistic person may mentally script out conversations ahead of time. They may struggle to make or maintain close friendships.
  • Stimming: People with autism may stim to self-soothe and regulate their emotions. Stimming involves repetitive physical movements or auditory expressions. Hand flapping, rocking back and forth, humming, finger tapping, and fidgeting with hair are all examples of stimming.
  • Masking: In order to blend in, autistics may “mask” or feel like they are performing a role during conversations. This can be exhausting, leading to constant fatigue, and they will likely replenish their energy by being alone.
  • Special interests: People with autism often have one or more interests that they are incredibly passionate about. This interest is often seemingly random and may involve collections or the accumulation of knowledge on a subject. 
  • Sensory issues: Textures, lights, and sounds can be overwhelming for a person with autism. A hypersensitivity to eye contact is also common. 
  • Developmental language delays: This is not the case with every autistic person, but developmental language delays can be a clear sign of autism in childhood. They may not speak until age four. Others have an extensive vocabulary at a young age. Difficulties may continue later in life, including nonverbal episodes.
  • Different approach to empathy: There is a misconception that autistic people don’t feel empathy. This is untrue, as many autistics have deep and intense feelings of empathy, but they may show it in different ways.

Other potential telltale signs of autism include poor coordination, difficulty following verbal directions, black-and-white thinking, a diminished sense of agency, rejection sensitive dysphoria, and frequently being in a daze.

Benefits of Autism Spectrum Disorder Testing

Autism evaluations bring clarity when receiving a diagnosis. It is important to consult with a psychologist who is experienced in diagnosing autism and has an in-depth knowledge of autism spectrum disorder.

Accurate Diagnosis

One of the most important benefits an accurate diagnosis brings is self-awareness. Autism is frequently misdiagnosed as other conditions, such as an anxiety disorder, ADHD, OCD, or borderline personality disorder. 

Lacking a proper diagnosis means the individual will not receive the tools that can help them in life. Undiagnosed autism usually means a lifetime of difficulties without understanding the reason behind them. Adult autism symptoms may go unnoticed for decades of a person’s life. 

Women are underdiagnosed, with a gendered diagnosis ratio of 4:1. This is not because autism is less common in women and girls, but because autistic symptoms in women are often overlooked or taught to be hidden. Autism symptoms in women may also present differently, as the diagnostic criteria research for autism did not include any female subjects. 

Minority groups are also underdiagnosed, not only due to economic inequality that leads to a lack of mental health resources, but also because of unconscious racial bias. Children of color may be mislabeled as disruptive or as troublemakers when having an autistic meltdown.

Treatment Guidance

An accurate diagnosis from autism testing will greatly enhance and inform the follow-up treatment. Behavior therapy, family therapy, and psychoeducation are often employed. It’s important that the treatment be implemented by a psychologist or therapist who has an in-depth understanding of autistic individuals.

Testing Accommodations

Autistic individuals often find themselves overwhelmed by their surroundings. This can make test-taking a strenuous process. An autism diagnosis can lead to testing accommodations for standardized exams like the SAT, ACT, or LSAT. These accommodations for autism may include granting extra time, headphones, or a private exam room. They are required by exam boards.

How to Get Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Initial Screening

An initial screening involves conducting an interview with the person in question, as well as their parent if applicable. Talking with a parent can give an insight into early childhood behaviors and development the person would not remember. This process typically takes one or two hours, and determines whether further evaluation is necessary. Questions asked during the screening may vary depending on age. 

Comprehensive Autism Evaluation

In the autism evaluation, a psychologist observes behavior and cognitive processes through diagnostic tests. These tests assess a variety of categories including social skills, language, memory, reasoning, adaptability, and motor function. Some common tests used are the ADOS, RAADS-R, Autism Spectrum Rating Scales, and the Childhood Autism Rating Scale. This stage of the process usually takes three to six hours.

Testing 3

Autism Affects People of All Ages

Father and son looking at each other at home
Autism Testing for Adults

The autism screening for adults is typically a self-reported account of symptoms, but adults may also bring a parent. Tests like the Social Communication Questionnaire, Autism Spectrum Quotient, or Autism Diagnostic Interview (Revised) may be implemented. The evaluation may involve observing how an individual completes different tasks.

Autism Testing for Teens

The interview process in autism screening for teens is similar to that of adults. An assessment of their strengths and abilities will be conducted in the evaluation, observing thought processes, ease with daily tasks, and communication skills.

Autism Testing for Children

The initial screening process for autism testing in children incorporates many questions answered by parents about language development, social responsiveness, and unorthodox behavior. Autism evaluations for children involve observing behavior during play, social activities, and various tasks.

Conditions Related to Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism has a tendency to overlap with the following conditions:

  • ADHD: Autism and ADHD have an incredibly high comorbidity, or simultaneous occurrence. They can often be hard to distinguish from one another, due to overlapping symptoms. More than half of people with autism also have ADHD.
  • BPD: Borderline personality disorder is strongly influenced by environmental factors and experiences. Many autistic individuals experience their needs not being met in childhood and frequent abandonment, leading to an increased likelihood of BPD.
  • OCD: People with autism are twice as likely to be diagnosed with OCD, and there are many overlapping symptoms, such as repetitive behaviors and adherence to routine.
  • Sleep disorders: Difficulties with sleeping, including insomnia, poor sleep quality, and restless limbs, are common in autistic individuals at a rate of nearly 80%.
  • Anxiety: Up to 84% of autistic individuals experience anxiety. This is often an understandable consequence of living in a world that feels overwhelming and unpredictable. 
  • Depression: The isolation and lack of acceptance autistic individuals face can lead to severe depression. They are four times more likely to experience depression.
  • Epilepsy: Epilepsy affects 35% of the autistic population in comparison to 1% of the standard population.
  • Gastrointestinal issues: Autistic individuals are four times more likely to experience gastrointestinal issues like chronic constipation, IBS, and colitis.
  • Eating disorders: It is estimated that roughly 20% of people with eating disorders are autistic. 
  • PTSD: Growing up in a world that doesn’t understand you can lead to trauma. The prevalence of PTSD is significantly higher in those with autism.

Autism Spectrum Disorder Therapy

Common Techniques

Therapy for autism can be beneficial when an autistic person has a safe place to divulge their feelings and have those feelings affirmed. Finding a therapist who has experience in working with autistic clients is vital, as a therapist who tries to frame therapeutic tactics around a neurotypical mind will likely be ineffective.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Autism

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a method of talk therapy centered around the connection among thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Cognitive behavioral therapy for autism can help autistic clients to better identify their feelings, which is sometimes a challenge for those with autism and examine the reasoning behind behaviors.

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Get Autism Spectrum Disorder Testing in NYC

Knowledge is the most powerful tool in dealing with any condition. Behavioral Health of New York can provide autism evaluations that can lead to diagnosis and accommodations for autism. Contact us to start the process of receiving an autism evaluation.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Does the Autism Spectrum Work?

There is a popular myth that the spectrum is a scale from “less” to “more” autistic. However, this is a misunderstood concept. The spectrum can be visualized more like a color wheel, with symptoms in various categories appearing more or less prevalently in different autistic people. 

One autistic person might have high sensory issues but no difficulty socializing, while another may experience the opposite. There is a great amount of diversity within the neurotype of autism, and it cannot be assumed that any two individuals will act the same.

How Common Is Autism?

As more research is done and our understanding grows, autism diagnoses increase. The current statistic among this generation of children is 1 in 44.

Who Can Diagnose Autism?

Trained pediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists, and specialists can diagnose autism. The average therapist is not qualified for diagnosing autism, as most have not received much training on the subject matter. Behavioral Health of New York is proud to have psychologists on our team who are trained to evaluate and diagnose autism for our clients.