What Should an Evaluation for Autism Look Like?

An autism evaluation is a comprehensive assessment of a child's developmental, cognitive, and social skills.

If you suspect that your child may have autism, it's important to get an evaluation as soon as possible. Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a developmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, and behavior. Early detection and intervention can make a significant difference in the child's life.

What is Autism Evaluation?

An autism evaluation is a comprehensive assessment of a child's developmental, cognitive, and social skills. The evaluation is typically conducted by a team of specialists, including a pediatrician, a psychologist, a speech-language pathologist, and an occupational therapist. The evaluation process may include:

  • A thorough review of the child's medical history and family history
  • Direct observation of the child's behavior and interactions
  • Standardized tests and questionnaires to assess developmental and social skills
  • Speech and language evaluation
  • Occupational therapy evaluation
  • Hearing and vision screening

The evaluation process may take several hours or even multiple sessions, depending on the child's needs and the evaluation center's protocols.

Why is Autism Evaluation Important?

Early detection and intervention can make a significant difference in the child's life. Children with autism who receive early intervention services have better outcomes in communication, socialization, and behavior. The evaluation can help identify the child's strengths and weaknesses and develop a tailored intervention plan that addresses the child's specific needs.

Moreover, an accurate diagnosis can provide a sense of relief and understanding for the child and the family. Autism is a lifelong disorder, and understanding the diagnosis can help the child and the family navigate the challenges and access the resources and support they need.

Developmental Screening for Autism

Developmental screening is an essential part of the autism evaluation process. It involves a quick assessment of the child's developmental milestones to identify any potential delays or deviations from typical development.

Developmental screening can be conducted by a pediatrician, nurse, or other healthcare providers during well-child visits.

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Recommendations

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all children should receive developmental screening at 9 months, 18 months, and 24 or 30 months. However, if there are any concerns about the child's development, the screening should be conducted as soon as possible.

Developmental Screening Tools

Developmental screening tools may vary depending on the child's age and the provider's preference. Some commonly used tools include:

  • Ages and Stages Questionnaires (ASQ)
  • Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT)
  • Parents' Evaluation of Developmental Status (PEDS)

These tools are designed to assess various aspects of development, including cognitive skills, communication skills, motor skills, social-emotional skills, and adaptive functioning.

Further Evaluation

If the results of the developmental screening indicate any concerns about the child's development, further evaluation may be recommended. The child may need to undergo a comprehensive autism evaluation to determine if they meet the criteria for an autism diagnosis.

How to Prepare Your Child for an Autism Evaluation

Preparing your child for an autism evaluation can help reduce their anxiety and make the process smoother. Here are some tips to help you prepare your child:

Explain the Process

It's important to explain the evaluation process to your child in a way they can understand. You can use age-appropriate language and visuals, such as pictures or books, to help them understand what will happen during the evaluation.

Practice Social Stories

Social stories are short narratives that describe social situations and appropriate behaviors. They can help children with autism understand social cues and expectations. You can create social stories that describe the evaluation process and practice them with your child before the evaluation.


Role-playing can also be helpful in preparing your child for the evaluation. You can act out different scenarios, such as meeting new people or following directions, to help your child practice their social skills.

Bring Comfort Items

Your child may feel more comfortable during the evaluation if they have familiar items with them, such as a favorite toy or blanket. You can bring these items with you and let your child know that they are welcome to have them during the evaluation.

Be Honest and Positive

It's important to be honest with your child about why they are going for an evaluation without causing unnecessary worry or anxiety. You can explain that doctors want to learn more about how their brain works so they can better support them in life. It’s also important to stay positive throughout the process and give praise where it is due.

How to Get an Autism Evaluation?

If you suspect that your child may have autism, it's important to take action sooner rather than later. The earlier autism is identified and treated, the better the outcomes for the child.

To get started, talk to your child's pediatrician or a developmental specialist. They can provide you with valuable information and refer you to an evaluation center or a specialist who can conduct the evaluation.

In addition to medical professionals, you can also contact your local Early Intervention program or school district for an evaluation. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), all children with disabilities, including autism, are entitled to a free evaluation and access to early intervention services.

Remember, seeking help for your child is a sign of strength and love. By taking action, you are giving your child the best possible chance for a happy and fulfilling life.

Ongoing Evaluation For Autism

Ongoing evaluation is an essential part of the autism treatment process. It involves regularly monitoring the child's progress, adjusting the intervention plan as needed, and addressing any new challenges that may arise.

Since autism is a lifelong disorder that affects individuals differently, ongoing evaluation helps ensure that the child receives the appropriate support throughout their life. It also helps identify any co-occurring conditions or health issues that may affect the child's development and well-being.

The frequency and type of ongoing evaluation may vary depending on the child's needs and progress. It may involve regular check-ins with a healthcare provider, periodic assessments of developmental milestones, or more specialized evaluations such as cognitive or behavioral assessments.

It's important to involve caregivers and teachers in the ongoing evaluation process to ensure consistency and collaboration in supporting the child's development. Open communication between all parties can help identify any concerns early on and address them promptly.

In conclusion, ongoing evaluation is crucial in providing effective support for children with autism. With proper monitoring and adjustment of interventions, children with autism can reach their full potential and lead fulfilling lives.

The Importance of Parental Input during the Evaluation Process

Parents play a critical role in the autism evaluation process. They are the ones who know their child best and can provide valuable information about their child's developmental history, behaviors, and communication patterns.

During the evaluation process, parents may be asked to fill out questionnaires or participate in interviews with the evaluation team. It's important for parents to be honest and open about their observations and concerns.

Moreover, parents can provide insights into their child's strengths and interests that may not be apparent during the evaluation. For example, a parent may notice that their child is particularly interested in trains or has a talent for drawing.

This information can help the evaluation team develop a tailored intervention plan that addresses the child's unique needs and interests. It can also help parents feel more involved in the process and empowered to support their child's development.

It's important to remember that parents are part of the team when it comes to evaluating and supporting children with autism. By working together with professionals, parents can help ensure that their child receives the best possible care and support.


Autism Evaluation is a crucial step in identifying and addressing the needs of children with autism. Early detection and intervention can make a significant difference in the child's life. If you suspect that your child may have autism, don't hesitate to seek an evaluation. With the right support and intervention, children with autism can reach their full potential.