Autism Spectrum Evaluations

Georgetown Psychology Associates provides Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) evaluations for adults who are seeking the opinion of an experienced psychologist. The implementation of the DSM-5 in May 2013 introduced significant changes to an ASD diagnosis. Although not without controversy among some in the mental health field, most conclude that the revised diagnosis represents a more accurate and useful way of diagnosing individuals with autism-related disorders.

Using DSM-IV, individuals could be diagnosed with four separate disorders: autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified. Researchers found that these separate diagnoses were not consistently applied across different clinics and treatment centers. Anyone diagnosed with one of the four pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) from DSM-IV should still meet the criteria for ASD in DSM-5 or another, more accurate DSM-5 diagnosis. While DSM does not outline recommended treatment and services for mental disorders, determining an accurate diagnosis is a first step for a clinician in defining a treatment plan for a client.

The DSM-5 introduced criteria for an ASD diagnosis that now has it fall under a single umbrella disorder. It is believed that this change will improve the diagnosis of ASD without limiting the sensitivity of the criteria, or substantially altering the number of individuals being diagnosed.

The symptoms of people with ASD falls on a continuum, with some individuals showing mild symptoms and others having much more severe symptoms. People with ASD do share common symptoms, namely, problems with communication deficits; difficulties with reciprocal social interaction; impaired social communication skills; and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped behaviors. However, the level of severity and symptom profile varies greatly from person to person. This is why testing can be beneficial for an individual and their loved ones when determining the best course of action for diagnosis and treatment.

Under the DSM-5 criteria, individuals with ASD must show symptoms from early childhood, even if those symptoms are not recognized until later. This criteria change encourages earlier diagnosis of ASD but also allows people whose symptoms may not be fully recognized until social demands exceed their capacity to receive the diagnosis.

An ASD evaluation focuses on understanding the unique challenges individuals face; determining if the pattern of symptoms and impairment are indicative of an ASD; and identifying areas in need of intervention.

Common Signs & Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, defines autism as a complex neurological and developmental disorder that begins early in life and affects how a person acts and interacts with others, communicates, and learns. ASD affects the structure and function of the brain and nervous system. Because it affects development, ASD is called a developmental disorder. ASD can last throughout a person’s life. Individuals with autism can have different symptoms. For this reason, autism is known as a spectrum disorder—which means that there is a range of similar features in different people with the disorder.

People with ASD have problems with:

  • Deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts including but not limited to:
  • verbal (spoken) and non-verbal (unspoken, such as eye contact) behaviors
  • social-emotional reciprocity ranging from sharing emotions; being perceptive of how others think and feel; and maintaining a conversation
  • Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities including not limited to:
  • Insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines, or ritualized patterns of verbal or nonverbal behavior
  • Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus
  • Hyper-or hyporeactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in sensory aspects of the environment

How an ASD Evaluation Can Help

The ASD evaluation includes an in-depth structured interview with the client (and family members and partners when appropriate), as well as administration of neuropsychological measures to asses cognitive and executive functioning.

The evaluator will have a face-to-face meeting with you after the evaluation to review the results and answer your questions. You will also receive a comprehensive written report describing the evaluation procedures and findings and recommendations to help you in school, work and in relationships.