Programs & Services
How is Autism Diagnosed?
Autism is typically evaluated by a developmental pediatrician or a psychologist. The provider will collect information about your child’s developmental history and current behaviors. The provider will also observe and engage with your child to better understand their social behaviors. A measure of your child’s developmental or intellectual skills may also be completed. The provider will also consider co-occurring conditions or conditions that may better describe your child’s behaviors.
What type of early screening is recommended?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is strongly recommended for children to be screened developmentally using standardized screening tools at their 9-month, 18-month, 24-month or 30-month and 3-year-old visits, at the very least.
How do I get my child evaluated?
Talk to your child’s primary care physician about the behaviors your child is demonstrating that make you think they might have autism. Your primary care physician will work with your family and decide if they will submit a request for autism evaluation to Phoenix Children’s.
Autism Evaluation at Phoenix Children’s
Phoenix Children’s accepts requests for autism evaluation from pediatric primary care physicians or pediatricians.
Phoenix Children’s strives to support children with autistic traits and co-occurring complex medical needs and genetic conditions. Our Developmental Pediatrics and Psychology Divisions have partnered to provide care for children recommended for autism evaluation.
Our developmental pediatricians focus on evaluating children from 0 through 3 years of age, while our psychologists focus on evaluating children 4 years through 6 years of age who have co-occurring complex medical needs and genetic conditions.
What to expect during the autism evaluation?
Diagnosing autism spectrum disorder is a complicated process. Evaluation involves experienced professionals who gather information from you, your child and their medical and educational records to determine if your child has autism and what support they may need.
How long does the evaluation take?
Depending on your child’s specific needs, age, and background, you may have one appointment or multiple appointments, each lasting between 90 minutes and 4 hours. The length of time and number of appointments will be decided prior to scheduling the evaluation.
What kind of provider will we see?
Depending on your child’s age and needs, your family will work with one or more of our specialty providers. Our experts include clinical psychologists, developmental pediatricians and pediatric nurse practitioners. You will know who and what kind of provider your family will be supported by at the time the appointment is scheduled.
Children 3 years old and younger will be seen by a developmental pediatrician or pediatric nurse practitioner while children 4 through 6 years will be seen by a psychologist.
What will the evaluation include?
Phoenix Children’s evaluation process has several steps:
Review of medical and school records
• Your provider will review the background information you provide from school, daycare or other healthcare providers. This information helps us gather a more complete understanding of your child’s development.
• During the evaluation, you will be asked a lot of questions about your child’s past and current development, social relationships and behaviors. The provider will ask you about your child’s developmental milestones, communication, play and social skills, behavior difficulties, and medical and family history. You will also be asked about your child’s favorite activities and things they do well.
Observation/interaction with your child
• An autism evaluation often looks very different from other medical appointments. An important part of the evaluation is for your provider to interact and connect with your child. This helps us understand your child’s strengths and areas for growth. We will work with you and your child to make the evaluation as positive an experience as possible.
When will I know the results?
It may take more than one appointment to gather information necessary to make an accurate diagnosis. Once the evaluation is completed, you will meet with your provider to review results and discuss next steps. You will leave each appointment with as much information as possible. Please know that your child may or may not be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. After your appointment, you will receive a comprehensive report detailing the results of the evaluation and recommendations for your child. We encourage you to read through the report with your child’s pediatrician.
My child has been diagnosed with autism. Now what?
If your child’s primary care provider has requested further medical care for autism, our team may complete a comprehensive evaluation to make recommendations specific to your child’s needs. Our team consists of developmental pediatricians and pediatric nurse practitioners who will complete a comprehensive evaluation to make recommendations specific to your child’s needs.
Children with autism often have other co-occurring medical conditions such as anxiety, ADHD, sleep concerns, eating issues, and/or genetic conditions. Our team of experts are specialized in the care of children with autism and will evaluate your child for any co-occurring conditions.
What can I expect at my child’s first visit?
Our initial evaluations are completed either in person or via telehealth. The appointment can take up to 90 minutes. Our team looks forward to meeting you and your child during this visit.
You will be sent forms to complete electronically prior to the visit. We ask you to complete this in advance as it will help us understand your child’s medical and developmental history. We also ask that you send in any pertinent evaluations such as those completed by the school or other professionals.
Other Autism Resources at Phoenix Children’s
Phoenix Children’s Psychology Division also offers a one-time informational caregiver group session on Zoom for families who have a child who has been diagnosed with autism. Please inquire about the class through the provider who diagnosed your child.