Home Children / Teens Assessments Autism
Autism is considered to be a neurodevelopmental disorder - a developmental disorder in childhood that has a neurobiological origin.
Autism is an early onset disorder in the development of the child: the symptoms manifest in the early stages of childhood, before the age of 3.
Autism is characterised predominantly by severe difficulties in social interaction. A persistent deficit in communication and social interactions, along with a restricted and repetitive pattern of behaviour, interests or activities, are generally observed.
The signs and symptoms of autism are very variable from one child to another and for the same child at different points in time. There are as many forms of autism as there are people affected. It seems everyone has their own unique symptoms. For example, some children with autism have speech difficulties and others don’t.
Actually, the particularity of this disorder is that it is not determined by one difficulty in particular, but by several, all related in some way to social interactions, empathy, communication and behavioural flexibility.
Health Professionals have therefore attempted to define 4 different types of autism spectrum disorders:
The variability of the symptoms and their intensity can make autism difficult to diagnose with accuracy. Frequently the diagnosis given is one of an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Another difficulty in the diagnosis is that the symptoms may be confused with those of other conditions or disorders such as global developmental delay, intellectual disability (intellectual developmental disorder), or child psychosis.
Children with autism display a lack of socio-emotional reciprocity and hence difficulties in developing, maintaining and understanding relationships. It may seem like they live in their own world, distant and detached from others.
Typical signs and symptoms may be:
Children with autism may present deficits in the non verbal communication behaviours used in interaction because they have difficulties decoding them. Consequently, social relations can be problematic and children with autism may:
Children with autism are sometimes limited, rigid or even obsessive in their behaviour, activities and interests. The following behaviours may be observed:
Following a rigid routine, for example insisting on a specific route to school or eating the same thing every day
Difficulty adapting to changes in schedule or environment for example, demonstrating extreme distress if furniture is moved or bedtime is changed
Children on the autistic spectrum may have speech and language difficulties. They may:
At any one point in time, our brain is carrying out complex procedures to gather and process the information it encounters. In order to do so, it uses what are known as "cognitive functions". Cognitive functions can be defined as the cerebral activities that lead to knowledge (cognition). They include all types of mechanisms for acquiring information, namely:
It is thanks to the efficiency of our cognitive functions that we can participate in the world around us and learn. When a child has difficulties learning or being in the world, it means that there are deficits or at least difficulties with one or more of their cognitive functions.
Due to the complexity of the brain and it’s functioning, an exploration of the different capacities that may have an influence on the relationship with the world and learning, is essential. For example, children with autism often display varying difficulties that should be assessed, such as emotional, social, attention, language-based and mobility impairments.
In case of a suspected autistic spectrum disorder, for children from the age of 6 and above, a full psychological and neuropsychological assessment should be carried out. The full assessment links together cognitive development with emotional and affective development.
* Neuropsychological assessment examines cognitive development. It analyses the totality of the cognitive (brain) functions. By exploring the symptoms displayed by the child, it enables deficits of any of the brains functions to be identified. It examines the following cognitive aspects of the child:
* Psychological assessment examines emotional development. It allows the psychologist to identify the specificities of a child’s personality and whether or not any disorder is present. It examines the following psychological aspects of the child:
If an autistic disorder is suspected before the age of 6, a developmental assessment can be carried out. This involves assessment of the child’s stage of development in relation to that of other children of the same age. The following aspects are examined:
A developmental assessment enables the detection of deficits as well as helping to make diagnostic hypotheses, to orient the therapeutic care plan as well as psychoeducational strategies at school and at home.
Under the age of 6, the child is in a stage of phenomenal neuronal and psycho-affective development. The diagnostic hypotheses based on the developmental assessment should be verified around the age of 6 once the brain functions are not in such a major phase of development.
As the brain functions are still in the process of developing, we cannot expect, for example, a 3-year-old to have fully developed attentional capacities and to be able to concentrate. For this reason, this cognitive cannot be assessed. Certain cognitive functions cannot be assessed before the age of 6.
Therefore, a full psychological and neuropsychological assessment at the age of 6 allows for the diagnosis to be confirmed or otherwise and for an evaluation of the totality of the cognitive functions in depth. In the meanwhile, psychological treatment can be offered to assist the child in their development.
The assessment helps to respond to several questions.
The evaluation allows for difficulties to be identified and for a diagnosis or diagnostic hypothesis to be proposed. It enables:
The evaluation can guide the follow-up treatment and maximise the learning potential and well-being of the child. The objective is to help the child to flourish on all levels - academic, social and emotional. The evaluation helps: