One of the most nerve-wracking times you can have is when you take your child to be evaluated for autism. Up until now, your child’s teachers have spoken to you about unusual mannerisms, you’ve seen abnormal behavior and your child’s primary care physician feels that your child is showing symptoms of autism or below-level developmental behavior for his or her age.
Now you have to make sense of all this feedback.
Probably, your doctor referred your child to a psychologist, pediatric neurologist or developmental pediatrician for a complete examination.
Preparation for this appointment can feel overwhelming. Here are steps for you to take to make the best use of the time you and your child spend with the specialist.
Just because your child is suspected to have autism does not mean that is the case. Providing the specialist with the following can improve the accuracy of the diagnosis.
As soon as you schedule the appointment, start logging the various kinds of behaviors, both good and bad. If possible, include past events. The more data you can include, the better. However, the problem with remembering past events is that you tend to remember mostly the really bad ones and maybe a few really good ones which can skew the diagnosis.
Gather observations from others who interact with your child on a regular basis. This could include baby sitters, relatives, teachers, older siblings, neighbors or close friends. They can offer insight into how your child interacts with others, plays or behaves in multiple situations. Perhaps more importantly, they can be valuable impartial observers on interactions between you and your child.
Be sure to list:
- type of behavior
- what triggered it
- where it occurred
- with whom
- what brought it to an end
A notebook and pen or a mobile device is an excellent way to record it as soon as it happens.
If possible, bring video of your child’s behaviors and movements. This can give the specialist solid information about your child, because he or she may not respond to you and the doctor in a strange environment as he or she does in familiar settings. A smartphone or tablet is a great way to do capture these moments.
Photographs are helpful in documenting certain symptoms, such as lining up toys or color separating them.
Bring a list of all medications, both over-the-counter and prescription. Include the dosages, frequency and start and stop dates. Record any changes you have noticed while on and off the medications.
Create a developmental milestone list for your child. An older sibling’s developmental milestone checklist, if available, will help provide a better baseline for the specialist.
Bring a list of questions that you’ve gathered from family members and close friends.
Lastly, bring family members or friends with you to the visit. They can support you during this trying time. They can provide insight into your child, as they can be more objective about the situation than you as a parent. Also, they can help you remember key things during the discussion, help you remember questions to ask or ask questions you did not think of.