When I was growing up in South Dakota many years ago, we didn’t commonly use the term autism. It was too new and there was no internet so information didn’t disseminate as it does in our current day. Today, many pinpoint autism awareness becoming more ubiquitous with the release of the 1988 movie Rain Man. The film was based on the life of Kim Peek, who was considered then to be both autistic and a savant. Though the film brought awareness, we need to be careful not to associate autism with this film. As Steve Silberman, author of Neurotribes, says, we should think more of a plurality of autisms, rather than a singular point. In other words, there are many different ways to be autistic.
Today, we use the term autistic spectrum to describe a wide array of individuals who have differences in neurological development, leading to differing ways of communicating and relating, as well as in differing ways of interpreting the world and exploring interests. Autism to me is more accurately a difference and not a disorder. A disorder implies there is something to fix – to put back in order or to normalize. But there is nothing to fix. Autism spectrum differences are just to understand, to be aware of and to accept.
In my view, an autism evaluation, or perhaps a better word is assessment, is simply an identification that gives one self-understanding and ways to communicate who one is to others. When we understand each other, and embrace our differences, we do better at relating. We can also celebrate our diversity and individual uniqueness.
Assessment of autism can take on a number of forms. For a formal assessment, a mental health clinician like myself with training in autism can assist you. Autism Spectrum Disorder is defined by the American Psychiatric Association in their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM 5-TR or just DSM).
In the assessment that I do, there are four parts. The first part of the assessment will be to review the criteria in the DSM to see if a more in-depth assessment is warranted. A summary of the criteria include these five items:
- Deficits in social communication and social interaction – there is a lot to discuss here.
- Restricted and repetitive interests behavior or activities – and a lot to discuss here.
- The symptoms have been present since childhood (although there is a type of acquired autism)
- The symptoms cause an impairment in social, occupational or other areas of functioning
- The symptoms are not due to another mental health disorder or medical condition
Assuming the clinical assessment in the first part warrants further exploration, the second part of the assessment will be to use the Social Responsiveness Scale Second Edition. This is 65-item objective measure of autism. If you are familiar with Likert-scales, this is the type of diagnostic test. This is a quantitative measure for autism. Before proceeding further, I will grade the SRS-2 and provide a report of parts 1 and 2.
If the first two parts indicate autism is likely, then third part of the assessment is a more in-depth interview using the Monteiro Interview Guidelines for Diagnosing the Autism Spectrum Second Edition. I was excited to take Dr. Monteiro’s training and delighted to discover we are neighbors here in Dallas. Her approach to assessment with the MIGDAS-2 is with a great deal of pride for autistic individuals and with greater focus on ability and difference, rather than on disability and deficit. In this third part, we will work together to complete a 50 page workbook. It is not as daunting as it may seem, but it will take several sessions together to complete this work.
The last part is my own work putting together a final report for you and/or your loved one to review and provide input so I can be as accurate and respectful as possible.
If you or a loved one are possibly autistic and would like an assessment, I would be honored to assist you to figure out the best way to pursue this. My focus at the moment is on adults on the spectrum, age 19 and up. (For children and teens, I suggest contacting any of the resources below though if you are having trouble finding someone, don’t hesitate to ask.) One last thing for those individuals with prior DSM-IV diagnoses of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder or pervasive development disorder not otherwise specified would now fall under the ASD diagnosis.
I also work with the Texas Workforce Commission’s Disability Office and can refer you for an in-depth evaluation there at no cost.
Autism Mental Health Specialists
- ACT Today
- The Arc
- Autism Awareness
- Autism One
- Autism Research Institute
- Autistic Self Advocacy Network
- Autism Society of America
- Autism Speaks
- Autism Women’s Network
- The Color of Autism
- Easter Seals
- End Duchenne Autism MDS Page
- First Signs
- Fragile X Alliance
- Generation Rescue
- Interactive Autism Network
- MAAP Services for Autism and Asperger Syndrome
- National Autism Association
- Navigating College
- Nonverbal Learning Disorders Association
- NLD on the Web
- Online Asperger Syndrome Information & Support (OASIS)
- Operation Autism
- Organization for Autism Research
- Sesame Street
- Talk About Curing Autism
- Unlocking Autism
- US Center for Disease Control Autism Page
- US Court of Federal Claims (autism and vaccine)
- US Dept. Health and Human Services Autism Page
- US National Institute of Mental Health Autism Page
- US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Autism Page
- Wrong Planet
Dallas Area Organizations
- Autistic Adults Meetup
- Autism Education Summit
- Autism Speaks DFW
- Autism Treatment Center
- Bobby Norris Roundup for Autism
- Children’s Health Center
- Parent Companion
- Scottish Rite Hospital
- Texas Autism Research and Resource Center
- UT Dallas Callier Center
Dallas Area Schools
Dallas Area Schools
- Child Study Center
- Dallas Academy
- Einstein School
- Focus on the Future
- Hill School
- Hillier School
- Great Lakes Academy
- June Shelton School
- Key School
- Notre Dame School of Dallas
- Preston Hollow Presbyterian School
- St Anthony School
- Vanguard Prep School
- Winfree Academy
- Winston School
- YMCA Rise School