Typically, autism is diagnosed in three steps. First, a parent notices some unusual characteristics about a child. Second, they visit a pediatrician and if he or she has doubts about whether a developmental disorder is present or not, the pediatrician refers the parent and the child to a specialist. Finally, the specialist conducts a series of tests to see if any of autism categories apply to the child.
Sometimes children can go without diagnosis up to the school age. A very mild autism may never get diagnosed.
Many people with autism look perfectly healthy, which is why many parents of children with mild autism believe that it’s not a disability at all. Others think that a diagnosis of autism is not a free pass from poor behavior and blame children and parents for the absence of control. Such thinking is unfortunate. It is the reason why it would be better if every autism condition could be diagnosed and treated. Untreated neurological conditions such as autism can have a very negative impact on a person’s self-image and well-being in the long run.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual is a reference published by the American Psychiatric Association. The manual classifies autistic disorder as showing 6 or more symptoms from a list of 12. The manual breaks these symptoms into three groups: communication, behavior and social interactions.
A child who has most of the symptoms would usually get diagnosed with autism. Those who have only a few symptoms will usually get a classification of developmentally disabled or autistic-like. This classification does not sound precise, because to this day scientists are debating about which conditions belong to the spectrum of autism.
Asperger Syndrome is a pervasive developmental disorder. People with the syndrome may not have any significant delay in verbal communication, which is why specialists focus on social and behavioral symptoms when diagnosing the condition.