Early Screening Autism Assessment

EARLY AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER SCREENING ASSESSMENT

WHAT IS AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a pervasive developmental disorder characterised by impairments in social communication, as well as restricted or repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests and activities. There are also often significant difficulties in the processing of sensory information. These complex and unique behaviours can vary in their manifestation, but are representative of the particular diagnostic criteria.
The cause of ASD is currently not known but it is thought to be present at or soon after birth and duration is considered lifelong. The behaviours and difficulties associated with ASD are evident very early in an individual’s development but the stage at which functional impairment becomes obvious can vary. No two individuals with ASD are alike. The behaviours associated with ASD can vary within individuals as they grow and develop and respond to various situations and environments in their daily lives.

EARLY IDENTIFICATION OF ASD

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is often not diagnosed until preschool age (or much older in many cases), however earlier recognition is possible. Early identification means that play based intervention can commence at a younger age, which can lead to increased outcomes for the child.
Clinical Psychologist, Dr Danielle Robson, offers ASD screening assessments for children as young as 12 months of age. These assessments focus on general development (language, motor and cognitive skills), as well as on key early indicators of ASD.

SHOULD MY CHILD BE ASSESSED EARLY?

If you have concerns about your young child’s development, or if your child has a family history of ASD (such as a sibling already diagnosed) and you would like their development to be monitored from a young age, it is recommended that an assessment be conducted.

EARLY INDICATORS OF ASD

Below are some of the key early indicators of ASD. No single behaviour or deficit is indicative of Autism Spectrum Disorder, however, the presence of a skill also does not rule out the diagnosis.
  • Reduced use of eye contact
  • Lack of anticipatory postures (such as reaching out to be picked up)
  • Lack of visual attention to social stimuli
  • Showing a preference for objects over people
  • Less smiling in response to others
  • Less attempts to gain adults attention
  • Less initiation of joint attention (showing objects to others or pointing to share interest)
  • Resisting being cuddled or held
  • Excessive irritability and difficulty soothing, or alternatively excessively placid and seeming content to be left on their own
  • Inconsistent responding to their name
  • Lack of functional and later pretend play skills (such as brushing a doll’s hair or pretending to talk on a toy phone)
  • Reduced imitation of sounds or actions (such as not copying clapping hands)
  • Delayed expressive or receptive language skills
  • Repetitive language (such as saying the same word or phrase over and over)
  • Actively seeking out, or avoiding, sensory input (such as excessively rubbing hands on a surface, squeezing objects very firmly, becoming distressed when feet touch sand, or avoiding food of a particular texture)
  • Repetitive mannerisms or play behaviours (such as repeatedly flapping arms, banging and object over and over, repetitively spinning wheels on a toy car, or arranging objects into lines)
  • Repeatedly stiffening arms or legs, or displaying other unusual body movements or postures
  • Frequent toe walking
  • Fixation on certain objects or parts of an object (in particular non-toy objects)
  • Self-harm behaviours (such as bead banging)

THE ASSESSMENT PROCESS

The infant/toddler screening assessment takes place over two, one hour consultations. These sessions involve a parent/caregiver interview and assessment of general development and key early indicators of ASD, through a play based session with the child. A report can be prepared if required, at an additional cost.
If it is determined that the child is not developing typically, recommendations for early intervention may be made. If considered appropriate, a formal or provisional diagnosis of ASD may be made, or a review assessment scheduled.

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