Diagnosis under the new DSM-5
What are the DSM-5 criteria for autism?
How is a child evaluated for the signs and symptoms of autism?
Who can diagnose autism?
When should families pursue a diagnosis?
What are the pros and cons of pursuing a diagnosis?
Why are screening, early detection, and early intervention important?
What about diagnosing co-occurring conditions?
Data shows that co-occurring conditions are much more prevalent in children with autism than in the general population, with research from the CDC showing that 95% of autistic children have at least one co-occurring condition in addition to autism, with more than half having four or more conditions.
To learn more, check out our article Autism and Co-Occurring Conditions.
What can parents do if they feel their child is being missed or misdiagnosed?
Talking to your child about their diagnosis
Something else to consider is how to talk with your child about their diagnosis. You might feel that telling them about their diagnosis will cause them to feel different or open doors to bullying or stigma. Some parents tell their children early on as soon as the child starts to feel different or ask questions; others wait until the child is older and will understand the diagnosis better. But research shows that “telling a child that they are autistic at a younger age empowers them by providing access to support and a foundation for self-understanding that helps them thrive in adulthood.”
Of course, how and when to tell your child is a personal choice and will depend on your child’s ability to understand the diagnosis, age, and emotional maturity. Here are a few tips on sharing the news:
- Be mindful of your child’s ability to process information and speak to them at their level.
- Speak positively and choose a moment where you and your child are both feeling good. Remember that highlighting their strengths — things they excel at, things that make them unique — is important.
- Respect their style of processing and stress that you’re there for them. Some children may ask tons of questions, others may want to read every book on autism, and others may need more space to process.
- Be wary of talking about “overcoming” autism. Focus on what they’re good at, what makes them unique, and how you can support them in living their best life.
What happens after a diagnosis?
Getting a diagnosis is just one step toward the ultimate goal of appropriate interventions. As Dr. Kanne explains, finding support after a diagnosis is just as important as the diagnosis process itself.