Diagnostic testing for an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other types of psychiatric symptoms (e.g., depression, anxiety) should be performed by a child psychologist with specific training in the assessment of these conditions. The purpose of an evaluation is to understand the child’s behaviors within a developmental framework (i.e., to determine if there is a delay or deviance from what we would expect compared to their peers), with consideration of how the behaviors may vary depending on the context (school, home). When assessing for an ASD, the evaluation focuses on development and behavior within three domains of functioning: communication, social interaction, and repetitive behaviors.
A diagnostic evaluation for ASD should include a thorough developmental history interview, which is usually conducted with one or both parents. Sometimes this interview will be based on the Autism Diagnostic Interview. In addition, the psychologist should spend an adequate amount of time getting to know the child, doing different interactive activities, which may be based on the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule. A diagnostic evaluation may consist of other things, including developmental or cognitive testing and school observation, depending on the child and family. Evaluations will always be tailored and individualized to the family’s particular needs and concerns.