A Family’s Journey to Diagnosis of ASDBrought to you by Reiss Davis Child Study Center’s P.E.D.S Program, a division of Vista Del Mar
Susan* had a gut feeling something wasn’t typical with her daughter, Sophia.* While there were no obvious red flags during Sophia’s preschool years, things changed when she started kindergarten at her local public school.
“She felt completely overwhelmed,” says Susan of her daughter, who is now 12 years old. “I would find her hiding under her desk after school.”
A developmental pediatrician diagnosed Sophia with ADHD and visual processing disorder and Sophia began vision and educational therapy. But, as Sophia got older, it became increasingly harder for her to focus in the classroom. She began to exhibit significant anxiety symptoms and refused to attend school.
Susan knew her daughter needed further assessment and began researching options, but the fees for many private psychologists specializing in these types of testing were unaffordable. After much searching, Susan found the P.E.D.S program in West Los Angeles, offering a comprehensive assessment at a moderate fee.
The Reiss-Davis Child Study Center’s P.E.D.S program is a highly regarded student training center that has been providing comprehensive psycho-educational evaluations – including learning disabilities assessments, attention deficit evaluations, accommodations assessments and psychological testing – to children and adolescents for more than 30 years. In addition, the P.E.D.S program now offers comprehensive assessments for school-age children and adolescents suspected of being on the autism spectrum.
Autism is a spectrum disorder that exists on a continuum of functioning, ranging from those experiencing severe delays in every area of development to those who exhibit more mild delays. While severely autistic children typically receive early diagnosis from a pediatrician, the Regional Center or other medical and/or psychological consultants, many higher functioning children and adolescents fall through the cracks due to their less-obvious symptoms.
“Higher functioning children are often able to simply ‘get by’ when they are younger,” says Dr. Lisa Blanchard, P.E.D.S program director. “But typically by elementary school more pronounced difficulties begin to surface as the academic, social and emotional pressures increase. If these issues are not addressed, then we often see children feeling isolated, anxious and depressed. Properly diagnosing and managing these co-occuring conditions has been shown to help reduce symptoms, particularly in children with milder forms of autism.”
A licensed clinical psychologist or a post-doctoral psychology fellow specializing in child development conducts the autism assessments at P.E.D.S. Assessment reports not only provide a diagnosis, but also individualized recommendations for intervention and an extensive list of resources. Families are also encouraged to call with any follow-up questions or if they need advocacy in securing needed resources for their child.
“Through our assessment, we would like to provide families a blueprint that highlights their child’s strengths and weaknesses,” says Dr. Elizabeth Geringer, a P.E.D.S psychologist.
Sophia’s thorough evaluation unlocked the puzzle for her family. She was diagnosed with high-functioning autism in addition to ADHD and an anxiety disorder.
“Just knowing helped us,” says Susan. “Sophia felt comfortable at P.E.D.S and everyone was so easy to talk to. It’s hard to hear the diagnosis at first, but now we know what we’re dealing with and we can get Sophia the resources she needs to thrive.”
For Sophia, the evaluating psychologist recommended accessing the most appropriate school services through special education by registering at the Westside Regional Center and recommended a local education advocate to help the family better navigate the school district policies.
For more information on the autism diagnostic services offered through the Reiss-Davis Child Study Center’s P.E.D.S program at Vista Del Mar visit vistadelmar.org or call Dr. Blanchard, (310) 204-1666 ext. 307
*names have been changed to protect the family’s privacy