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Autism Spectrum Disorders

Definition |  Asperger's Disorder   |   Assessment   |   NLD   

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Autism spectrum disorders included: Autism, High Functioning Autism (HFA), Aspergers, Non-Verbal learning disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder.  Autism is a complex disorder that has unique and varied presentations. This is why the call it a "Spectrum-Disorder."  When clients report symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) we use a comprehensive neuropsychological approach.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by deficits in 1) language development, 2) social interaction, as well as 3) restricted and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activity (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). The New Diagnostic Manual, DSM-5, has changed the classification system and we will soon update this page to share relevant details. 

Proper assessment and diagnosis can lead to appropriate recommendations and successful outcomes.  If you are looking for a Diagnostic Evaluation for Autism-spectrum Disorders, please contact us.

autism kid

Assessment and Treatment of Autism

When a client reports symptoms of an autism spectrum disorder, we use a comprehensive approach to testing. Typical concerns for autism-spectrum disorders lie in these major areas:  

  • Language Deficits
  • Social Deficits
  • Narrowed Interests
  • Sensory Integration Problems

Pediatric neuropsychologists have a strong understanding of normal developmental stages in language and learning. This is especially important in assessing Autism because symptoms evolve over time. In addition to the complicated evolution of a disorder, adolescents and adults may mask, or compensate, for their weaknesses with psychiatric conditions including anxiety, depression, tics, or simple defensive responses.  

During the assessment, information must be gathered regarding current behavioral functioning, as well as early childhood development and the way a student has learned information. In autism spectrum disorders, language is often delayed but by the time they become adolescents, they may have a very sophisticated level of vocabulary or verbal understanding.  

Typically these children have difficulty with social engagement. By the time the child has become an adolescent, these subtle problems have been incorporated into their personality and they have compensated in personality and social development. They may be described as isolated, keeping to themselves, and having only a few friends.  

Neuropsychological Testing for Autism Spectrum Disorders

Neuropsychological testing evaluates all of the cognitive domains including:

  • Attention and Concentration
  • Verbal and Visual Memory
  • Auditory and Visual Processing
  • Visual Spatial Functioning
  • Language and Reading Skills
  • Sensory Development and Sensory Integration
  • Gross and Fine Motor Development
  • Social Skill Development
  • Executive Functioning
  • Emotional and Personality Development
  • Behavioral Functioning

When a client is seen, testing may take a full day and cause cognitive fatigue. A neuropsychologist is trained to consider immediate factors that affect attention during testing. For example, what part of the day the client is more inattentive, or if there were sleep or dietary issues on that particular day, as well as a host of other issues.   

The Testing Process - click here