Parent Page: Navigating Autism id: 31206 Active Page: Diagnosisid:31209


If you or your healthcare provider has serious concerns about your child’s development, he or she may recommend having your child screened for autism. Autism refers to a disorder that impacts a child’s social, communication, and behavioral development. Early warning signs include delayed language, limited pointing and gesturing, lack of interest in other children, unusual toy play, and over- or undersensitivity to lights, sounds, touch, and other sensory experiences. The number of symptoms and their severity will differ among children.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that autism occurs in as many as 1 in every 36 children in the United States and is more likely to occur in boys than in girls. Autism  is a lifelong, brain-based disorder. It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups. Early diagnosis and intervention are important in helping children with autism gain skills and make progress developmentally.  The most common professionals who diagnose autism in Oklahoma are licensed psychologists or psychiatrists, developmental pediatricians, and school psychologists. Other professionals who may have specialized training to diagnose autism as a part of a team include licensed professional counselors, speech-language pathologists, and occupational therapists.  These professionals have specialized training and experience in diagnosing and providing interventions for autism.  An autism assessment includes using a variety of tools including family and teacher interviews, observations, and standardized tests.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the federal law that makes available a FREE appropriate public education (FAPE) to eligible children with disabilities and ensures special education and related services to those children.

Infants and toddlers, from birth through to age 3 years, with disabilities and their families may receive early intervention services under the IDEA Part C. In Oklahoma, these services are provided by Sooner Start. SoonerStart is Oklahoma’s early intervention program designed to meet the needs of families with infants or toddlers (ages birth to 3 years old) with developmental delays and/or disabilities in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The program builds upon and provides support and resources to assist family members in enhancing infants' or toddler’s learning and development through everyday learning opportunities. To access these services, please call the Department of Health and Human Services office in your county or complete this Sooner Start Referral Form.
Children ages 3 through 21 years old, may be eligible for special education and related services under the IDEA-Part B for the purpose of achieving independent living skills, increasing career opportunities, accessing post-secondary education, and community participation.  These educational, therapeutic, and other services and supports are provided by the public school district in which you reside. The first step for any child to receive special education services is an evaluation to determine eligibility. You can request this type of evaluation by contacting the special education department director of the school district in which you reside.  You can find a sample email here.

A special education evaluation will show if a child has a disability and needs specialized instruction and support. Parents must give informed consent for this evaluation to take place at school. An evaluation for special education will show a child’s strengths and challenges. The evaluation scores should show the specific areas your child struggles with. Having the evaluation information allows the IEP team to provide individualized instruction and supports your child needs. The school team will use the results of your child’s evaluation testing to design an individualized education plan if your child is eligible for services.

If you choose to have your child evaluated outside the Sooner Start or the school district in which you reside, you can expect these things:

Records Review: Before your appointment, you may be asked to complete questionnaires that will ask you about your concerns and your child’s developmental and medical history. These questionnaires may be sent for you to complete and to return by mail or to bring to the appointment. You may also be asked to have your child’s daycare provider or teacher complete a questionnaire. In addition, you should also provide any reports of previous evaluations that your child has received. It is very helpful for the psychologist or assessment team to review information from other clinicians, such as speech-language pathologists and occupational therapists. 

Parent Interview: During the parent interview, the psychologist or assessment team will meet you, obtain more information about your child’s medical history, and ask questions about his/her behavior and development. The parent interview may take about an hour to complete. Based on the information shared during the parent interview, you may be asked to complete additional questionnaires or behavior checklists.

Child Assessment: This portion of the evaluation usually involves behavioral observations and administration of standardized tests. The psychologist or assessment team may complete tests in three main areas: cognitive skills, adaptive behavior, and specific autism assessments. During this time, your child may be asked to complete some additional tests (such as fine motor, attention, and/or memory) if the psychologist or assessment team thinks the tests will lead to a better understanding of your child. This process can take 2 or 3 hours, depending on your child’s age and skills. This is a long time for your child and the psychologist or assessment team to work together. It is a good idea for you to bring comfort items and snacks for your child (and yourself) during this component. Most of the tests will seem like “play” to your child, and it may be helpful to explain this to your child in advance

Reporting Session: After the evaluation, the psychologist or assessment team will have a feedback session with you. The psychologist or assessment team will share with you the results of the testing and the diagnosis. Ultimately, an autism diagnosis is based on past history, test results, behavioral observations, and clinical judgment. At this time, the psychologist or assessment team may provide you with a copy of his/her recommendations. This is an important time for you to ask questions. A formal and more complete written report will usually be provided to you.