Early Diagnosis of ASD Leads to Greater Academic and Social SuccessBrought to you by Reiss Davis Child Study Center’s P.E.D.S.’s Program, a division of Vista Del Mar Child and Family
Hearing the words “your child is on the autism spectrum” can be frightening for parents, but the consequences of not knowing are much worse.
“We see a lot of families whose kids have been struggling in school for a long time and the parents have been hoping that their child will just ‘grow out of it,’” says Elizabeth Geringer, Psy.D., a psychologist specializing in autism assessment at Reiss Davis Child Study Center’s Psycho-Educational Diagnostic Services Program (P.E.D.S.) at Vista Del Mar in West L.A. “What’s important for parents to remember is that the earlier the intervention, the more successful the child will be.”
According to P.E.D.S. Program Director Lisa Blanchard, Psy.D., the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder requires specialized training and care because symptoms frequently appear very different among individuals and the symptoms can, and commonly do, change with development. The autism evaluations conducted through P.E.D.S. are done by licensed psychologists or a postdoctoral psychology fellows who have had extensive training in the area of child development and autism spectrum disorders, and in the comprehensive assessment of children and adolescents.
“Our autism spectrum evaluations are extensive and use a combination of gold-standard measures for assessing symptoms of autism (e.g., the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-2 and the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised), and also include an assessment of cognitive ability, language level, academic level, social and emotional functioning and adaptive behavior,” says Blanchard. “We also use various behavioral checklists and information obtained from collateral interviews with parents and other professionals to rule out other conditions that may include similar symptoms.”
Once the assessment is complete, the evaluating psychologist will prepare a report and meet with parents to review the findings, discuss diagnosis, provide an extensive list of resources available for families, make appropriate recommendations, provide referrals and answer any remaining questions. A copy of the report will be provided to parents during the feedback session.
The main focus of a P.E.D.S. assessment is to give families a blueprint of their child’s strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to better focus on their child’s individual needs.
For some kids, academics are a major point of struggle and the thorough assessment will provide the feedback needed to design an appropriate IEP. Other kids might need training in social skills and interactions. For those situations, the P.E.D.S. report will recommend community organizations and social therapy programs that would be the best fit for that child.
“Our goal is to provide everything parents need from start to finish,” says Geringer. “We make recommendations for the school setting, as well as what parents can do at home, in addition to a wide variety of therapies that are best suited for each child.”
“I’m a parent myself,” says Geringer. “I want the same thing for every child we see at P.E.D.S. that I want for my own kids – to succeed and for the world to be able to see their unique strengths.”
Once an assessment is completed and a diagnosis is issued, parents are encouraged to follow up with regular assessments in order to track progress and make adjustments to the treatment services, as needed.
For more information on autism diagnostic services offered through the Reiss Davis Child Study Center’s Psycho-Educational Diagnostic Services program (P.E.D.S.), visit www.vistadelmar.org or call P.E.D.S. Program Director Lisa Blanchard, at 310-204-1666, ext. 307.