Sunday, May 7, 2017

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Diagnosis: A Basic Guide

One question I get a lot is how to seek diagnosis for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (also Asperger's Syndrome, though that diagnosis was replaced by ASD in the DSM-V). The process is different for everyone and depends on which route you take, but here is a basic guide I put together to help you get started!


Who Can Diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
- Psychologists or Psychiatrists (doctors who know about the human mind)
- Neurologists (doctors who work on the brain, spine, and nerves)
- Developmental Pediatricians (doctors who have special training in child development and children with special needs: also can diagnose teens)

Any psychologist, psychiatrist, neurologist, or developmental pediatrician can diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorder. However, it is recommended that you seek someone who specializes in autism, or at least one who has experience in diagnosing ASD. (For example, Dr. Wahlberg of the Prairie Clinic in Geneva, IL)

Which type of professional you should choose for diagnosis depends on your situation. For instance, in diagnosing a child, seek out professionals with much experience with children (i.e. a developmental pediatrician—though a child neurologist or psychologist may be just as good). Teens may also be diagnosed by pediatricians since they usually treat patients up to age 21.

Adults can be diagnosed by any psychologist, psychiatrist, and neurologist that aren't strictly pediatric professionals. If you are an adult and suspect you may be on the autism spectrum, don't be afraid to seek diagnosis. Despite the misconception that kids can "outgrow" autism, adults with ASD are still autistic—they may just look more "normal" due to coping mechanisms, and the pressure to fit in isn't as strong as it tends to be during school years.

How Do I Find a Nearby Professional?
A simple Google search is an easy way to get started. By typing "psychologists near me" or "neurologists in (your city, state)" it will find results based on your location.

Websites like Psychology Today's "Therapists" page, or other sites with similar lists, may be a good source if you want to look at individual professionals. Keep an eye out for someone with a PhD or PsyD if possible; they are definitely licensed to diagnose, though others types of professionals (like an LCSW) also can.

You can also find professionals on websites for counseling and therapy offices, usually under a tab like "About Us" or "Meet the Therapists."

There may be cases where a psychologist is more accessible than a neurologist, or vise-versa, etc.—again, it really depends on the situation and what options are available to you. Use your best discernment in finding the right professional for your diagnosis.

How Much Does an ASD Diagnosis Cost?
It really depends. Your location is a major factor as well as your insurance. Some clients with insurance pay as little as $10-$80 for a basic diagnosis. Others without insurance or in specific locations might pay as much as $1000-$3000, especially if you get more extensive or high-quality testing. This Quora thread shows just how varied the cost can be:

To check if a professional accepts your insurance, you can either find out on their website or by giving them a call. You can usually find out what insurance is accepted by a professional or office on pages like "Payment Options," "Insurance," or "About." If you cannot find the information, call or email them to ask.

If you have no insurance, some places will use a sliding scale to adjust their out-of-pocket price based on your income. Basically, the less money you have, the lower the price will be. Keep in mind it still may be pricey for you if the out-of-pocket expense is already very high. If there's no information on how to pay without insurance, contact the professional or office to find out.


I hope this helps! If you still have unanswered questions, please comment below and I will do my best to find the answers!

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