Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects millions of children worldwide, and early diagnosis is vital for intervention and support. In this blog post, we explore the various components of diagnostic evaluations including assessments, screenings, observations, and providing valuable insights into the methods our in-house diagnosticians use to evaluate and diagnose autism in children.
Obtaining an autism diagnosis is often the first step in helping a child with autism. A diagnosis is determined through a diagnostic evaluation, which is required for ABA therapy. As part of the diagnostic evaluation our families and clients begin with a detailed family interview, engage in several assessments and observations, receive a comprehensive report detailing the diagnosis (if applicable) and review recommendations for next steps and treatment options. But what does all of that really look like?
What is a psychological evaluation?
A psychological evaluation, or psychological testing, is an assessment completed by a psychologist to better understand what is going on with a person and help inform what kinds of treatment would be helpful.
What should you expect from our psychological evaluations?
Our psychologists will conduct interviews and administer structured psychological tests designed to identify and provide more detail about emotional, behavioral, or learning difficulties. Typically, a psychological evaluation will have four (4) parts: information gathering, testing, report writing, and the feedback session. Our psychologists will ask questions about the client’s history, administer structured tests, and then put together a report to present to the family during the feedback session. The feedback session is a consultation with our psychologist about the content of the report.
How long does it take to do a psychological evaluation?
A psychological evaluation can take several hours or a couple of days to complete depending on the number of tests the psychologist administers and the time it takes for an individual to complete the tests. The number of tests given is determined by what questions our psychologist is trying to answer. Typically after an initial consultation, our psychologists can estimate how much time an evaluation is likely to take.
When can you expect the results?
At Mindcolor, our psychologists work to complete a report within five (5) business days of the final testing date.
How do you get the results?
Our psychologists will schedule a meeting to review the results with you and will provide a copy of the evaluation report for you.
What should you do with the results of the psychological evaluation?
A copy of the evaluation report should be retained for your records and a copy can be provided to other providers such as the child’s pediatrician, neurologist, psychiatrist, as well as their physical, occupational, and speech therapists, etc. You are welcome to release a copy to these providers or a Mindcolor team member will send a copy to these offices with your written permission.
How should you follow-up with your child’s pediatrician after the results?
It is recommended that you provide a copy of the evaluation report to your child’s pediatrician. With your written permission, Mindcolor psychologists are able to consult with your child’s pediatrician if they have any questions.
When will another psychological evaluation be needed?
Depending on your insurance carrier another psychological evaluation may be needed. Some insurance companies require an update every two (2) years while others require an update every three (3) years. Even if your child’s insurance carrier does not require an updated evaluation, it can be helpful if additional concerns arise.
Are psychological evaluations covered by insurance? How much does it cost?
Psychological evaluations are covered by insurance but each insurance plan covers psychological evaluations at a different rate. The Mindcolor billing department can help determine what the out of pocket expense would be.
What kind of information will you learn?
The information included in a psychological evaluation is dependent on the concerns raised in the initial appointment and the different tests that are agreed upon. The information learned from the evaluation can include the presence and severity of symptoms of mental health disorders, the presence of an intellectual or learning disability, academic strengths and weaknesses, coping styles, explanation for aggressive behavior, and recommendations for next steps based on the findings.
Why can’t you get a diagnosis from your child’s pediatrician?
While a pediatrician can do a screening for Autism Spectrum Disorder, they will refer families to a psychologist, developmental pediatrician, or neurologist who have the training and experience to make the diagnosis. Insurance companies typically also require a formal diagnosis and will not accept a screening from a pediatrician to approve coverage of ABA and other services.
In addition to our in-house licensed clinical psychologists, we also have close relationships with local diagnosticians at all of our locations and can connect you with the appropriate clinician to get started. We currently accept most commercial insurance plans to cover the cost of the diagnostic evaluation - fill out our “get started” form here! https://www.mindcolorautism.com/diagnostics
Author: Erin E. Scarth, PsyD
Licensed Clinical Psychologist for Mindcolor Autism