What does autism look like in a toddler?
While every child with autism is unique and the early signs of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) vary from child to child, there are significant characteristics or “red flags” that indicate a toddler is at risk for an ASD and an evaluation should be obtained. These early signs include:
- No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
- No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions by nine months
- No babbling by 12 months
- No back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving by 12 months
- No words by 16 months
- No meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating) by 24 months
- Any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age
(Autism Speaks, Inc. 2013)
Should I wait until my child goes to school before getting an evaluation?
No. Time is of the essence when it comes to a child with a developmental disorder. It is very important that if you have concerns about your child’s development, you talk to your child’s doctor and seek a developmental evaluation. The earlier intervention begins, the better the outcomes are for a child.
In addition, if your child has ASD, it will be beneficial to have that information before they enter school, so a specialized education plan can be developed for him or her. This will help your child be as successful as possible in school.
How long does it take to get an evaluation?
AFTS is committed to responding quickly to the needs of families, and we schedule evaluations within a few weeks, rather than several months as is common in other clinics.
What’s your diagnosis process?
Our psychologist, will meet with your child and one or two parents/caregivers for a 3 to 4 hour evaluation session at the AFTS Children’s House. The session will include a caregiver interview, clinical observations, and direct assessment with the child. We assess the whole child and are able to diagnose an autism spectrum disorder, rule out autism, and diagnose alternative conditions including ADHD, global developmental delay, behavioral disorder, etc. If additional testing is needed, or if assessment of speech-language or sensory-motor skills is warranted, we will arrange for additional sessions with our speech or occupational therapists. At the end of your session, you will be given immediate feedback. A written report will be sent to you within a few weeks of the final evaluation session.
If my child has autism, would you provide recommendations about treatment?
Absolutely. During the feedback with parents, treatment recommendations are offered and a list of resources are provided. Further, the written report will detail all of the evaluation findings as well as all recommendations made.
Do you provide treatment for autism?
Yes. AFTS is a full service autism resource. In addition to the diagnostic evaluations, AFTS provides intervention services for children–both those showing red flags for autism and those with a diagnosis of ASD. Our interventions include ABA therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, social skills training, PreK and Kindergarten readiness support, and parent coaching for ASD.
Do you accept insurance?
Yes. AFTS is in-network with Blue Cross Blue Shield, United HealthCare, and Tricare. We also have a good working relationship with Cigna and may be able to obtain in-network rates with them, despite being out-of-network. For those insurance companies with whom we are out-of-network, you likely still have autism services available to you. In order to take advantage of those services and to minimize your out-of-pocket costs, we will file your claims in those instances too, leaving you only the deductible and co-pay/co-insurance. To learn more about your benefits, contact our office manager, Lizzie Kaman, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do I need a referral from my doctor before I can have an evaluation or therapy?
No. You do not need a referral or a prescription from your doctor in order to have an evaluation or therapy. In the cases of speech or occupational therapy, you may need to have a prescription from your doctor in order to have your insurance company cover those costs. Lizzie, our office manager, can call your insurance company to find out the details of your policy and plan.
My child does not have a diagnosis of autism–does he need one before he can get therapy?
No. Your child does not need a diagnosis of autism in order for our team to provide therapy. In fact, young toddlers will often show developmental delays before a formal diagnosis is given, but time is of the essence with young children, as the earlier the intervention is started, the more optimal the outcome. So therapy can begin when the first concerns arise, before a formal diagnosis is given. Insurance, however, will likely not cover ABA therapy until a formal ASD diagnosis is given.