Early Signs of Autism
Getting a formal autism diagnosis can help you find the supports that are right for your child. This section explains the diagnostic process for children.
How do I find and receive diagnostic assistance?
When seeking a diagnosis for your child, it is important that you find a qualified professional with expertise in assessing autism and related developmental and mental health disorders. In Ontario, these professionals are often medical doctors such as pediatricians, psychiatrists or psychologists/ psychological associates.
What does an assessment involve?
During an assessment, the healthcare professional will conduct an interview with you to gain a better understanding of your child’s developmental history, their current strengths and challenges in areas such as language and communication, social and play skills, and restrictive and repetitive behaviours. You will likely be asked to fill out questionnaires with your child’s teacher and/or daycare to understand how your child behaves in different environments.
The healthcare professional will then conduct a structured play or conversation-based observation of your child and may ask to observe your child in the home or school environment. Depending on the age of your child and their ability to undergo formal testing, the healthcare professional may undertake a clinical interview with your child or have them complete other standardized tests and questionnaires.
When should I reach out to schedule an assessment?
Autism can be diagnosed at any age, and if you have concerns, it is best to speak with your primary health care provider as soon as possible. Children do best when they have the right supports, resources, accommodations and intervention in place. It is also important to note that other disorders of childhood (e.g., ADHD, anxiety disorders, some learning disabilities, trauma-related disorder) can co-occur and/or have overlapping symptoms with autism. In that case, a comprehensive assessment is critical.
Additional information and resources about early signs and getting a diagnosis:
- Autism assessment and diagnosis
- Signs of autism
- Getting a diagnosis
- What should an evaluation for autism look like?
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