Autism Diagnosis


Where should I turn for a autism diagnosis?

Deciding whom to choose for this process requires careful consideration. Diagnosing Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is limited to licensed psychologists and medical doctors. Although other types of trained specialists can perform initial screenings or developmental assessments, your child will not receive an ASD diagnosis (or have it ruled out as possible diagnosis) from an evaluation completed by another type of specialist unless a licensed psychologist or medical doctor participates in and supervises the evaluation. ASD is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that affects many areas of development, including language, social communication, and behavior. These impairments range in severity, and often affect other critical skills such as executive functioning (higher-level cognitive abilities involved in decision-making, planning, organization, etc.), academic and career achievement, and independent living skills. ASD often occurs in conjunction with other developmental issues, including language delays, intellectual disability, motor impairments, and genetic syndromes, as well as behavioral or mental health symptoms like ADHD, anxiety, and depression.

Although you have many choices for psychologists and doctors in the South Florida region, very few have received the highly specialized training needed to complete a best-practice diagnostic assessment of ASD. Many practitioners also have limited experience in the diagnosis and treatment of children and adults with ASD. The licensed psychologists at Nicole Valdes, Ph.D. & Associates, P.A. have extensive specialized training and experience in working with individuals with ASD. Our clinical psychologists provide developmental and psychological evaluations using scientifically supported gold-standard instruments, such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Second Edition (ADOS-2). Evaluations also include comprehensive testing of other abilities, including intelligence, communication, social skills, academic achievement, adaptive functioning, and possible co-occurring mental health concerns. Each evaluation is individualized depending on your needs. When you choose our psychologists, you and your child/ loved one will receive a detailed report with critical information needed for treatment planning and accessing resources, in addition to a diagnosis and information about abilities and current functioning. Assessment with a clinical psychologist means that diagnosis and information is based on several hours of direct interaction and testing with the child or adult, and information reported by you and other sources (i.e. teachers) as applicable, allowing us to really get to know our clients. In contrast, appointments in primary and secondary care settings may be quite short and may involve unnecessary medical tests. Furthermore, diagnoses of ASD in these settings rarely include standardized tests of behavior, intelligence, or symptoms of ASD, and may be based primarily on very brief interactions with the client or patient.