I'm Dr. Deborah Fein,
Professor of Psychology and Pediatrics at the University of Connecticut,
and I'm going to be talking about "Diagnostic and Screening Instruments for Autism".
The first topic is diagnosis.
What is the difference between diagnosis and assessment?
Diagnosis is just a decision you make about which classification,
which syndrome best applies to an individual.
Assessment is a much broader process.
It's the overall evaluation of the individual for the purpose of formulating
treatment plans and also for tracking changes over time.
So for the young child with possible ASD,
this assessment might include making a diagnosis,
and also looking and characterizing at the degree and
profile of his or her developmental delays,
examining the presence of interfering behaviors,
looking for the presence of ancillary symptoms like
difficulties with sleep and difficulties with eating,
looking at family functioning and resources so that you
can best advise the family of how to allocate those resources.
Then very importantly, looking at response to prior treatments,
in case treatment regiments need to be changed.
There are some pros and cons to making a diagnosis.
For me in most clinical situations,
the arguments in favor of making a diagnosis outweigh those against making a diagnosis.
These include, a better good proper diagnosis will give the child access to
services and that those will be appropriate services for the child's needs.
To some extent, you want to guide the family to have
realistic expectations of what the child is
expected to achieve in the next period of time.
You can also refer parents to
appropriate parent support groups and appropriate literature,
and then of course if the child is participating in research,
you want to have the correct diagnosis.
Of course there are some arguments against the use of diagnosis for very young children.
And these include that for some,
giving a diagnosis of autism will create
unnecessarily low expectations in parents or teachers,
will socially stigmatize the child or the family,
or create unnecessary parent distress.