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Autism Diagnosis Information

“What is autism?”


“Autism is a disorder that involves communication delays combined with limited social responses and repetitive or ritualistic behaviors (APA, 2013).

Autism is currently referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to emphasize that symptoms vary widely across the spectrum. The CDC has a great resource for the full diagnostic criteria for ASD.

Autism is now recognized as being highly prevalent. It is currently estimated that 1 in 44 children have ASD (CDC, 2021). This increase in prevalence is due to better recognition of early warning signs of ASD.

Potential warning signs may include limited social play (such as not returning greetings or playing with peers). This could also look like limited eye contact or engaging in repetitive toy play (like spinning items or lining up objects). None of these things are necessarily definite that a child has autism, but they are worth bringing to your pediatrician's attention.”

Catherine Lark, PhD, BCBA-D, Licensed Psychologist (NJ)

“How are children referred for ASD evaluations?”


“The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends children receive regular developmental screenings as well as specific screenings targeting ASD symptomology at the 18-month and 24-month well visits.

If a child receives an abnormal screening or if caregivers have concerns at any point about their child’s development, a pediatrician will discuss a potential referral for an ASD evaluation.

ASD can be diagnosed as young as 18 months old, although this diagnosis is most reliable beginning at 2 years of age (CDC, 2022).

Early diagnosis is very important, as this allows for more time to receive services targeting skill deficits and behavioral concerns.”

Catherine Lark, PhD, BCBA-D, Licensed Psychologist (NJ)

“What is involved with the ASD evaluation?”


“The process begins with an interview with caregivers to discuss the child’s development and current concerns.

Next, the Psychologist works directly with the child to assess for symptoms related to ASD. Assessment may also include examination of the child’s cognitive abilities.

Additional information is then collected related to the child’s day-to-day behaviors (known as adaptive behaviors) as well as their behavioral and emotional functioning.

Based on the information collected, the Psychologist will determine whether the child meets diagnostic criteria for ASD or another developmental disability.

After the evaluation is completed, the assessment results are reviewed with caregivers along with intervention recommendations. Should a child meet criteria for ASD, a referral for ABA services is given, along with a potential referral for ST and OT, depending on the child’s needs. Bierman Autism Centers offers aba therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy in addition to its diagnostic services.”

Catherine Lark, PhD, BCBA-D, Licensed Psychologist (NJ)


  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021. Autism Prevalence Higher in CDC’s ADDM Network. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2022. Autism Spectrum Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2022. Autism Spectrum Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/hcp-dsm.html
  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596

Bierman Autism Centers offers diagnostic services, ABA therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy.

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