4 Steps to Navigating the Autism Evaluation Process - Cultivate Behavioral Health & Education - ABA Therapy Learning ABA

Finding answers about your child’s developmental abilities is a journey that requires time and effort. This comprehensive guide will help you monitor your child’s development and understand the evaluation process from start to finish.

1. Monitoring Your Child’s Development and Early Intervention:

The initial phase of evaluation begins with monitoring your child’s development, allowing you to identify potential areas of delay and access early intervention services. You can start monitoring and screening your child’s development at home as early as the first few months of life. To assist caregivers in this process, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers the Milestone App. This user-friendly app enables you to create a profile for your child and provides age-appropriate questions to monitor their development from birth to age six. The Milestone App not only facilitates developmental monitoring but also offers valuable activities to support your child’s development. Additionally, it allows you to generate a comprehensive report that can be shared with your pediatrician, and it even connects you with local free early intervention programs to further support your child’s growth.

2. Seeking a Comprehensive Development Evaluation (CDE):

If your child’s development isn’t progressing as expected, share your concerns with your pediatrician and request a Comprehensive Development Evaluation (CDE) referral. This evaluation provides a medical diagnosis required by insurance companies for accessing ABA therapy and other essential services. Different from educational assessments done in schools, a CDE delivers a comprehensive medical diagnosis by qualified providers like developmental pediatricians, neuropsychologists, licensed clinical psychologists, or licensed clinical social workers, depending on your state. Contact your insurance provider’s benefits department to obtain a list of in-network providers in your area. Some plans may require a pediatrician’s referral, while others don’t. Be proactive inquiring about the ASD evaluation process and gather necessary information. To expedite the evaluation, consider adding your child to the cancellation list, although short notice may be involved. This can potentially shorten the waiting period by weeks or even months.

3. Navigating the Evaluation Process:

The evaluation takes place in a professional office setting and typically requires one or two sessions to complete. It involves a combination of interview-style questions and observation sessions with the child. Each evaluator follows a specific process for conducting a comprehensive developmental evaluation (CDE) and utilizes clinical guidelines and assessment tools to assess the child’s abilities. Common assessment tools used in the evaluation process include the Child Autism Rating Scale (CARS), the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), the Gilliam Autism Rating Scale-2nd Edition (GARS-2), Autism Detection in Early Childhood (ADEC), and the Autism Diagnostic Interview–Revised (ADI-R). Evaluators may employ multiple tools, some of which are tailored to the child’s age for more precise evaluation.

4. The Comprehensive Report:

Upon completion of the evaluation, the evaluator prepares a thorough report encompassing various aspects. This comprehensive report contains essential information regarding the child’s general health, medical background, the underlying reason for the referral, as well as social and behavioral concerns. In addition to these key details, the report should include the following specific information:

  • Date of birth of the child.
  • Age of the child at the time of evaluation.
  • Credentials and qualifications of the evaluators involved in the assessment process.

The full comprehensive report should be anywhere from five to 25 pages and can include graphs, guidelines, clinical diagnostic codes, and recommendations. Recommendations can include Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, recreational activities, etc. These recommendations are made based on the child’s needs and what the evaluator feels would most benefit the child’s learning and development.

By understanding the autism evaluation process, you are better equipped to support your child’s journey. With early intervention, proper evaluation, and targeted therapies, children with ASD can thrive and reach their full potential. Stay informed, find the right providers, and provide the necessary support to empower your child on their unique path of growth and development.