By: Gabrielle Galto, BCBA, NYS LBA
The following information provided is not meant to diagnose or treat and should not be taken in replacement of a medical professional or behavioral consultation.
Speaking on behalf of this question, I remind myself of how difficult and overwhelming it can be to hear that your child has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Receiving an ASD diagnosis, as a parent or caregiver, can result in shock and is a really hard pill to swallow. However, an accurate diagnosis can provide some relief since it can help lead to receiving appropriate treatment and services.
An ASD diagnosis comes with many concerns and questions. That said, what I would like to focus on is what follows a diagnosis for a child or other individual with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Difficulties Without a Diagnosis
In this case, ignorance is not bliss. Without a diagnosis, it could be really difficult to obtain appropriate care and treatment. This could also come with many hardships both emotionally, physically, and financially for families. Individuals, no matter how young or old, without a diagnosis can encounter many difficulties in life that can result in maladaptive behaviors or outbursts, social isolation, and negatively affect their educational abilities. Once diagnosed, the deficits and hardships encountered can be worked on through evidenced based treatment packages designed to help diagnosed individuals reach their full potential. A young child can then start to engage in more appropriate ways to support social development, build friendships, and can be taught skills for independence or even job placements.
Furthermore, early diagnosis is just as important because it provides treatment at such a critical juncture. During this time, treatment can be provided to assess and teach skills to help a child catch up to their peers, providing for a comprehensive intervention package promoting growth across domains. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2019), ASD can sometimes be detected as early as 18 months but many children may not receive an ASD diagnosis until much later. Developmental screening tests provide an assessment on learning basic skills to determine if a child has delays, and screenings for ASD should be routinely checked. With early detection comes early treatment. However, autism is a spectrum disorder, which means symptoms are presented across a wide range of differences within type and severity.
Therefore, an accurate autism diagnosis is important so that appropriate therapeutic services are provided. Autism spectrum disorder is an extremely complex condition and there has yet to be a single cause for the disorder, which makes it far more difficult to diagnose. ASD affects many areas of functioning including social interactions, communication, idiosyncratic behavior and interests in children and adult alike. Signs of ASD can be presented very differently between each individual, which can make identifying and diagnosing more difficult.
An ASD diagnosis can also provide additional resources such as necessary benefits or disability living allowances, and a delayed diagnosis would only further prolong access to these benefits. Furthermore, one can obtain a diagnosis no matter what age. This diagnosis would provide eligibility for supports, services, and protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which details specific rights and accommodations at work and school for individuals with disabilities. There are also services that provide support with vocational placements and rehabilitation programs such as counseling and job placement services.
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