CASA of Arizona

Autism - pg. 3

Medical Tests



Various medical tests may help with diagnosis and possibly suggest changes in the intervention or treatment strategy.

Hearing: Various tests such as an Audiogram and Typanogram can indicate whether a child has a hearing impairment. Audiologists, or hearing specialists, have methods to test the hearing of any individual by measuring responses such as turning their head, blinking, or staring when a sound is presented.

Electroencephalogram (EEG): An EEG measures brain waves that can show seizure disorders. In addition, an EEG may indicate tumors or other brain abnormalities. An electroencephalogram is a recording which shows the variations in electrical potentials at a number of scalp sites. Inside the brain, neurons produce their own electrical fields. These fields are measured in units of micro volts. It is thought that an unhealthy brain will have large changes in the electrical potential compared to the potentials produced by a healthy brain.

However, in order to observe an unhealthy brain it must be compared to the same brain when it was healthy. So, for example, to measure the difference between a brain undergoing a seizure, the EEG must last long enough for a seizure to occur. Often a video EEG is done over a period of a day or a week. This form of measuring brain activity is noninvasive (doesn't require any surgical cuts) and relatively inexpensive. This method gives numerical results. The patterns of the numbers are then used to determine whether or not the brain is healthy. The results can also be used to determine which section of the brain is causing problems. Additional tests will likely be needed to make an accurate diagnosis of these conditions.

Metabolic Screening: Blood and urine lab tests measure how a child metabolizes food and its impact on growth and development. Some autism spectrum disorders can be treated with special diets.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): An MRI involves using magnetic sensing equipment to create an image of the brain in extremely fine detail. Sometimes children are sedated in order to complete the MRI.

Computer Assisted Axial Tomography (CAT SCAN): An X-ray tube rotates around the child taking thousands of exposures that are sent to a computer where the X-rayed section of the body is reconstructed in great detail. CAT Scans are helpful in diagnosing structural problems with the brain.

Genetic Testing: Blood tests look for abnormalities in the genes which could cause a developmental disability.

Direct Observation



Direct observation, interaction, and interviews assessments: Information about a child's emotional, social, communication, and cognitive abilities is gathered through child directed interactions, observations in various situations, and interviews of parents and caregivers. Parents and family members should be actively involved throughout these assessments. What actually occurs during a specific assessment depends on what information parents and evaluators want to know.

Functional assessments: These assessments aim to discover why a challenging behavior (such as head banging) is occurring. Based on the premise that challenging behaviors are a way of communicating, functional assessment involves interviews, direct observations, and interactions to determine what a child with autism or a related disability is trying to communicate through their behavior. Once the purpose of the challenging behavior is determined, an alternate, more acceptable means for achieving that purpose can be developed. This helps eliminate the challenging behavior.

Play-based assessments: These assessments involve adult observation in structured and unstructured play situations that provide information about a child's social, emotional, cognitive, and communication development. By determining the child's learning style and interaction pattern through play-based assessments, an individualized treatment plan can be developed.


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