A developmental screening is a short test that is often used to determine whether children are developing typically and learning basic skills in accordance with well established developmental milestones. During a screening, parents answer questions about the child’s learning, behavior, and communication abilities and whether or not they have met/are meeting their milestones. Ideally, children should receive screenings at 18 and 24 months (as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics) during regular well-child doctor visits. Additionally, parents can use screening instruments such as Cognoa, the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT), Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ), or even the milestone checklist provided by the CDC.
If there are any signs of a problem, your doctor should recommend a more comprehensive diagnostic evaluation. This in-depth evaluation involves specialists such as child neurologists, psychologists, and developmental pediatricians who have experience diagnosing Autism. The process may include further monitoring of the child’s behavior and development, an interview with parents, hearing and vision tests, brain imaging, genetic testing, memory and problem solving tests, a language assessment, and other medical exams. The evaluation process can be a good time for parents to get the answers they need from the specialist team and can “help plan treatment and interventions for your child” (NIMH).