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The Ins-and-Outs of an ASD Evaluation

When to Get an ASD Evaluation

If you or your pediatrician have concerns that your child may have autism and require an ASD Evaluation, the next steps can feel very unknown. For a medical diagnosis of autism, certain criteria must be met as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5).

The tricky part is autism looks different for each child and the symptoms of autism can also be present in other disorders. So, it is important the child receive what we call a “comprehensive evaluation” to determine what’s really going on. This means we want the evaluator taking their time and using a variety of screeners, assessments, evaluations, and questionnaires during their evaluation. Here are some of the most-used tools specific to autism. You want at least one of these completed.

Who Can Conduct the ASD Evaluation?

There are only a few types of professionals who can evaluate your child. Your pediatrician may refer you to a specific person, but you can also take the opportunity to shop around and find who best fits your family. Research evaluators and then call each option to ask questions! Find out their experience evaluating autism, what tools they use to diagnose, and what their evaluation process looks like from start to finish. Also ask how long their waitlist is and what insurance they work with. An independent psychologist may be able to see you quickly but only accepts private pay. Alternatively, a Developmental Pediatrician group may have long wait times to get an appointment but accepts your insurance.

Generally, the following professionals can provide a comprehensive evaluation for autism. *

  • Developmental Pediatrician
  • Child Psychologist
  • Pediatric Neurologist
  • Child Psychiatrist

*This is not a definitive list and the evaluators you have access to may vary depending on state regulations, professional license requirements, specialized training requirements, insurance restrictions, or provider availability in your area.

There may be multi-disciplinary members of the evaluation team depending on your child’s needs:

  • Speech Language Pathologist
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Physical Therapist
  • Social Worker

It’s important to note here that school districts often employ psychologists who will evaluate and diagnose school-aged children with autism. While these evaluations are critical for your child to receive the necessary school services, most insurance carriers will not accept school-based evaluations as a medical diagnosis. You may still have to seek a comprehensive evaluation from one of the previously listed providers to receive insurance funded services related to autism.

Evaluation Process

Every evaluator is going to have their own approach to the actual process, but many families have experienced something similar to this. Your child’s evaluation will likely occur over the course of two separate appointments. The first will be the actual evaluation when the evaluator(s) administer the various assessments and conduct interviews with you. After the first appointment they will review their findings and develop the report. This report will be reviewed with you at the second appointment. Sometimes you know the results before that second appointment, other times you may not. It depends on how each individual evaluator does things.

Anatomy of the ASD Evaluation Report

The work you put into finding the right provider to evaluate your child will show through in the physical evaluation report you receive. This document should be lengthy with reports ranging from 10-20 pages being common. The length does not indicate severity of the diagnosis, it indicates the quality and thoroughness of the evaluation. You want a long report.

This report may be referred to by many different names including Psychological Evaluation or Assessment, Diagnostic Evaluation, Diagnostic Report, or any combination of these terms. It will be broken into different sections and should include the following at a minimum.

The report is part of your child’s medical record now and will be used to justify future medical treatments and school services.  It is required when submitting authorization requests for ABA, more on that though in a later blog post!

What To Do Next

This may seem like a silly question, but this is a document you are going to need to supply to people over and over, so keeping it somewhere safe and accessible is so important. Here are some things you can do after getting your hands on the physical report.

  • Designate a safe storage place for the original report and be sure all guardians know where it is kept. Many parents at this point make a binder where they store all of the important info about their child in one portable solution. I also recommend filing a copy in either your household filing system, a safety deposit box, or wherever you keep your important documents. Don’t just shove it in a drawer!
  • Make copies! Count up who may need a copy and then make a few more to have on hand. People who may need it include the general pediatrician, school district, ABA provider, therapists, and other guardians or caregivers. Then distribute those copies!
  • Make a scanned copy. This is ideal and prevents the need to make paper copies and many providers are happy to receive a digital copy. Just be sure to keep your original paper copy safely stored in case something happens to the digital file.

The diagnostic process can be overwhelming. We hope this information has left you feeling empowered to navigate your next steps. So, do your research and ask questions. Your child will receive a quality evaluation and report that opens the door to the services they deserve!

ABA Therapy Can Help

ABA therapy is an evidence-based approach for creating significant positive behavior change. It focuses on the idea that our consequences affect how we learn as well as our future actions.

Research shows that high-quality, intensive Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) programs provides the best outcomes for children diagnosed with autism and other neurological and developmental disabilities. Through the use of the scientific method, ABA therapy focuses on (1) assessing behavior, (2) determining the reason for a behavior, (3) establishing scientifically-backed solutions for the behavior, (4) and implementing those solutions effectively.

Benefits of ABA Therapy

This type of therapy focuses on the idea that our consequences affect how we learn as well as our future actions. At Cultivate, the skills we teach include:

  • Language development
  • Functional play and social skills
  • Daily living skills
  • Parent Training
  • School training and readiness
  • Potty training
  • Behavior management

Where can ABA Therapy Take Place

Cultivate offers ABA therapy at our learning centers, in homes, and during community outings. We strongly believe that therapy across various settings helps our clients learn and apply their skills in the moments and places that matter most. 

With center-based therapy, children grow more independent in a safe, caring, and comfortable environment. At one of our clinic centers, children can play with peers, practice and learn social skills, communication, daily living skills, and school-readiness.

Children learn to appropriately engage and play with siblings during home-based therapy. Independence is gained by accomplishing potty training, daily hygiene skills, tasks, and completing household chores. If you are interested in home-based ABA therapy, visit our clinic pages in Illinois and Kentucky.

Out in the community, children learn to safely access spaces including grocery stores, doctor’s offices, hair cuts, and restaurants. Learn more about Cultivate Community Services.

Cultivate a confident future through personalized care

We understand that there are many questions, thoughts, and concerns when searching for ABA therapy for the first time or when looking for a new provider. Our team is here to walk beside you and help you through every step of the way. Visit our Getting Started page find out what you can expect with this form of therapy and what your next steps might be.

Providing therapy with your safety in mind during COVID-19

Our world has changed during the course of COVID-19. The needs of families, especially those with autism, have not gone away. With the loss of established routines, limited access to your child’s care team, and maybe even trouble finding that one particular brand of pizza at the store, we are all feeling overwhelmed.

We may not be able to deliver on the pizza, but we can help you in other ways. Cultivate is here to help you navigate the autism treatment journey at home or in our clinic.

Clinic Safety with COVID-19

Cultivate is committed to serving you in the most responsible way possible. By following our strict cleaning procedures we are dedicated in maintaining the health and safety of our communities. Over the course of 2020, our clinic spaces have implemented zones to maintain a safe social distance with one another. Our clinicians have also implemented procedures including checking temperatures at the door when a child arrives for therapy. In March of 2020, we also started out Telelhealth services. To learn more about our safety procedures and resources, visit out COVID-19 webpage.

ABA At Home Resources

As essential behavioral health providers, it is our goal to continue with service delivery across telehealth, in-home, and limited center/clinic-based models. The steps our staff take to mitigate risk are critical and everyone plays an individual role in maintaining a safer work environment for all.

For video resources, craft activities, and general ABA-at-Home guidance visit our new Pinterest Page!

Our Path to Reopen

We will continue to communicate updated risk mitigation protocols as states begin to loosen restrictions. Consider signing up for our newsletter, and follow us on social media to stay up-to-date!

Mitigating Your Risk to COVID-19

Throughout this challenging time, Cultivate Behavioral Health and Education is taking careful consideration to mitigate your risk to COVID-19.

As essential behavioral health providers, it is our goal to continue with service delivery across telehealth, in-home, and limited center/clinic-based models. The steps our staff take to mitigate risk are critical and everyone plays an individual role in maintaining a safer work environment for all.

Cultivate is committed to serving you in the most responsible way possible. By following our strict procedures we are dedicated in maintaining the health and safety of our communities. The infographic below describes 6 examples of how our clinic spaces mitigate your risk to COVID-19.

Risk Mitigation Procedures Infographic
graphic with 6 examples of how Cultivate is mitigating risks to COVID-19

For craft activities and story time videos to stay busy while limiting your risk to COVID-19 and social distancing, visit our YouTube and Pinterest Channels.

Read our blogs:

Homemade Kaleidoscope – Are you looking for a new activity to inspire creativity from your kiddos? These homemade kaleidoscopes are so fun and easy to make. To learn how to create your very own customizable kaleidoscope at home, follow along step by step!

Sensory Processing Crafts – A sensory/automatically maintained behavior is a behavior we engage in that is not socially mediated. We do it because it simply feels good to us. Whether the sensory-seeking behavior is common or uncommon, we all engage in some form of it. This can be listening to music, scratching an itch, biting nails, fidgeting, or squeezing a pillow. Sometimes we don’t even realize we are doing it!

5 Tips to Prepare Your Child for Virtual Learning – We’ve all needed to make adjustments to our work, school, and socializing over the last six months. One aspect that can be especially challenging is successfully adapting to virtual learning, and we want to help! These tips and tricks were compiled from recommendations from Cultivate employees who have supported or are currently supporting their own children in the virtual learning process.

5 Tips to Support Your Child’s Virtual Learning – You’ve prepared a learning space, printed and organized materials, and set expectations for the daily routine. Now what?

Motivating your child, creating achievable goals for yourself, and generally setting everyone up for success for consistent, effective virtual learning can be a challenge. We hope the following tips will help parents manage and functionally support schooling from home.

Helping You Navigate the Back to School Journey – Cultivate is dedicated to working with our families as they take on the unique challenges of heading back to school this year. Our team is excited to help you navigate this journey!


Cultivate is excited to announce the launch of our Telehealth Program! Through telehealth we can continue to maintain the gains of your child’s treatment and overcome any obstacle that may arise. As an organization, we are committed to helping our patients lead independent productive lives, and this medium will allow us to do just that!

Benefits of Telehealth

  • No transportation needed
  • Eliminate childcare or eldercare issues
  • It’s convenient!
  • Flexible session times
  • No need to miss work

Equipment You’ll Need

  • Computer, Tablet or Phone
  • External or integrated webcam and microphone
  • High speed internet connection

Getting Started with Telehealth

Getting started with Telehealth is simple. First, check your email for a link to your session (if you don’t see that email, check your spam or junk folders). Click the link to enter your session. Wait in the waiting room until the clinician opens your session.

Alternatively, you can download the Zoom app (AppStore or Google Play) and register with the email address you provided to the clinician.

While you are in a session, ensure the following:

  • The camera is in a position to show your whole face.
  • Lighting is adequate.
  • Your volume is up.
  • You are in a room that is private with no distractions.
  • Clinician is aware of anyone else in the room with you.

Between sessions, continue to keep in contact with your clinician as needed. Call 9-1-1 if you have an emergency. Contact our office if you have any questions.

For more information about this service, watch our Telehealth Orientation webinar.