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The increased prevalence of autism in the United States left many families waiting almost two years to access autism screenings in New Jersey. To help lighten the burden for families, we have added autism screenings and diagnostic testing services to our New Jersey centers in Berkeley Heights, Eatontown, Princeton and Ramsey.

Families can contact us at 800-931-8113 or start@biermanautism.com to schedule autism screenings in New Jersey. Once you reach out, our intake team will work with your insurance company to set up the appointment. The evaluation will include a parent interview and scheduled testing with the child, and you will receive testing results typically within 1-2 weeks, and our team will be with you each step of the way.

Dr. Catherine Lark

Diagnostician Catherine Lark sits down with us to answer some questions and shares resources about the process for autism screenings in New Jersey.

Tell me about yourself and why you joined Bierman.

My name is Catherine, and I am a doctoral behavior analyst and licensed psychologist in New Jersey. I’m originally from Texas but attended graduate school at Louisiana State University, where I studied school psychology and ABA. I completed my predoctoral internship and postdoctoral residency at the Marcus Autism Center in Georgia, specializing in assessing and treating severe problem behavior and severe language delays. I moved to New Jersey in March 2022 to be closer to family, especially to help my brother-in-law with autism.

One of the first things that drew me to Bierman was their focus on maximizing client outcomes through developing high-quality clinical standards! There are so many talented individuals at Bierman, and the collaboration among providers pushes us all to be better clinicians for our clients each day!

My child’s pediatrician recommended autism diagnostic testing. What should I do next?

If a pediatrician recommends autism testing or parents want to seek out an evaluation on their own, the next step is to find a psychologist specializing in autism evaluations. Insurance can help caregivers find providers in-network if needed. Given that there may be long waiting lists for diagnostic appointments, caregivers are encouraged to get onto multiple waiting lists to minimize their waiting time.

Do I need a referral to get a diagnosis?

Many different autism screening options that can be used to diagnose autism. At Bierman, we use the gold-standard assessment of autism symptomatology is the ADOS-2 (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Second Edition). Depending on an individual’s age and vocal abilities, different ADOS-2 activities are administered. In addition, autism assessments should evaluate a child’s adaptive behaviors, which are day-to-day behaviors needed to be successful. Two common measures for this are the Vineland-3, which can be administered as an interview or as a questionnaire, and the ABAS-3 questionnaire. Including an assessment of the child’s cognitive abilities is also recommended during an autism evaluation. Depending on a child’s age and language capabilities, different cognitive measures can be given, such as the Bayley-4 for children under the age of 42 months or the Leiter-3, which is useful for children over 36 months with significant language delays.

What are the benefits of getting diagnosed?

Research shows that early intervention is tied to better outcomes for symptom reduction and skill development (National Autism Center, 2015). Thus, early identification of a child with autism is crucial for providing medically necessary support as soon as possible.

What are some of the signs of autism?

Symptoms of autism often vary from person to person. However, one of its core features involves restricted and repetitive behaviors, which may look like extreme adherence to routines or repetitive vocal speech or motor movements (e.g., flapping, rocking). In addition, autism is characterized by deficits in communication and interaction, such as speech delays, abnormal levels of eye contact, and reduced interaction with peers.

How is autism diagnosed?

Autism is diagnosed by a licensed professional who specializes in differentiating autism symptoms from other developmental disorders. Information is gathered from caregiver reports, behavioral observation, and direct assessment of autism symptoms.

What are the different testing options?

Many different assessments can be used to diagnose autism. The gold-standard assessment of autism symptomatology is the ADOS-2 (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Second Edition). Depending on an individual’s age and vocal abilities, different ADOS-2 activities are administered. In addition, autism assessments should evaluate a child’s adaptive behaviors, which are day-to-day behaviors needed to be successful. Two common measures for this are the Vineland-3, which can be administered as an interview or as a questionnaire, and the ABAS-3 questionnaire. Including an assessment of the child’s cognitive abilities is also recommended during an autism evaluation. Depending on a child’s age and language capabilities, different cognitive measures can be given, such as the Bayley-4 for children under the age of 42 months or the Leiter-3, which is useful for children over 36 months with significant language delays.

Do we need to prepare anything before the testing process?

Caregivers are encouraged to gather and bring any prior evaluations (e.g., Early Intervention Evaluation) and/or service plans (e.g., Individual Family Service Plan from Early Intervention or Individual Education Plan from school) with them for the assessment.

What happens during the testing process?

I typically begin by conducting an initial two-hour appointment with caregivers, including a developmental and social history and a semi-structured developmental interview. The next appointment involves two- to three hours of direct testing with the child. First, I conduct a series of play-based activities designed to assess symptoms of autism. In addition, I give a cognitive assessment to determine whether the child is showing evidence of any cognitive delays.

How long does it take to get the results?

After testing, I score and write up the results and then meet with caregivers in 1 – 2 weeks to review the results. Depending on the caregiver’s preference, this follow-up can be conducted virtually or in person.

How will I know what to do after my child receives a diagnosis? Can you recommend a therapy plan after receiving a diagnosis?

Regardless of the diagnostic outcome, the feedback session includes an in-depth discussion of clinical recommendations. If an individual is diagnosed with autism, I present potential service options, particularly discussing different models of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services as the recommended, gold-standard treatment for children with autism.

What benefits are there to receiving a diagnosis?

I like to remind caregivers that it is ultimately up to them with whom they share their child’s diagnosis, as many caregivers are concerned about their child being labeled. The major benefit of the diagnosis is that it opens the door for needed services to help remedy any skill deficits and target interfering behaviors.

Do you have suggestions for any reading material?

One of my favorite websites to recommend is Autism Speaks: https://www.autismspeaks.org/

This website has endless resources for families, including a toolkit designed for coping with the first 100 days after a diagnosis: https://www.autismspeaks.org/tool-kit/100-day-kit-young-children.

Additional helpful online resources include Autism NJ ​at www.autismnj.org and the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network at https://spanadvocacy.org/.

What would it be if you could say one thing to your patients and their families?

Families often come to me during an incredibly difficult time in their life, but I want them to know that they are not alone! I am committed to being an avenue of support for families every step of the way. At Bierman, we are a giant team working with caregivers to build a better future for our children.

We hope the information on autism screenings in New Jersey from our Diagnosician provides you with guidance. To schedule a diagnostic appointment or learn more about our services, call 800-931-8113 or email start@biermanautism.com to set up a tour today!
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Author

  • Catherine Lark

    Dr. Catherine Lark, Ph.D. NJ Psychologist (#6692), is dedicated to bridging the gap between assessment and treatment services for children with developmental disabilities. In addition to providing diagnostic evaluations for children suspected of autism, Catherine also specializes in providing parent training support as well as implementing applied behavior analytic services. Catherine graduated with her Ph.D. in School Psychology at Louisiana State University with an emphasis in ABA. She then completed her predoctoral internship and postdoctoral residency at the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta, Georgia, with a focus on the assessment and treatment of severe problem behavior and the early intervention for significant language delays in children with autism and developmental disabilities. She recently moved to New Jersey after working as a licensed psychologist and doctoral behavior analyst in Louisiana for 3 years. In her free time, Catherine enjoys fostering animals, finding new restaurants, and spending time with friends and family.

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