News and Notes from The Johnson Center

Assessment Corner: Choosing a Clinician to Evaluate for Autism

JCCHD | Mon, March 25, 2013 | [Autism Treatment][Assessment Corner]

Woman and child reading a book

Seeking an evaluation for autism can be emotional and overwhelming. The first step is finding a clinician or clinic to complete the evaluation. Only qualified professionals with expertise in working with children with autism should complete autism evaluations.  Here are some tips on what to look for:

• Try to obtain a referral from a trusted, qualified source. Oftentimes pediatricians or other child developmental specialists maintain a list of qualified clinicians who complete autism evaluations. Some autism-specific organizations also keep a list of providers by state on their website.

• Check the clinician’s credentials. Any clinician completing the evaluation should be licensed and have specialized experience working with children with autism. Professionals who can complete diagnostic evaluations for autism include: licensed psychologists, developmental pediatricians, neurologists, and psychiatrists. Sometimes additional multidisciplinary clinicians will be involved in the evaluation process, such as speech or occupational therapists.  Keep in mind that clinicians and physicians vary greatly in terms of the length of the appointment, how they evaluate, and what they provide as part of the evaluation. It is important to find a professional who is thorough and will provide the objective information you need.

• Ask whether the clinician completes all of the assessments themselves or if they use a technician to administer assessments. Important observations are gathered through direct administration of tests to your child. Clinicians who complete all testing themselves can gather a more accurate picture of your child because they are not obtaining the information second-hand through a testing technician.

• Determine what is involved in the autism evaluation. Make sure that the following are included: autism-specific standardized tests, a written report with recommendations, and a follow-up appointment to review results and answer questions.

• Obtain information regarding the fees and forms of payment. If you hope to use health insurance, check with your insurance company to see if they cover evaluations for autism. Ask the clinician or clinic if they accept health insurance, or help with pre-authorization and provide necessary information for filing insurance claims. If you need additional financial support, some centers will assist you with looking into possible grant opportunities.

• Remember, you are your child’s biggest advocate. If you feel that the clinician you initially choose isn’t the right fit, look for someone else. It is important that you trust the clinician; their recommendations will be your first blueprint for planning for your child’s intervention needs.

Stay tuned for the next Assessment Corner post “What tests should be included in an evaluation for autism?”