There are no medical tests for diagnosing autism. An accurate diagnosis must be based on observation of the individual’s communication, behavior, and developmental levels. However, because many of the behaviors associated with autism are shared with other disorders, various medical tests may rule out or identify other possible causes of the symptoms being exhibited.
In May of 2013, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) released a new version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM-5. This manual is the standard reference that healthcare providers use to diagnose mental and behavioral conditions. The DSM-5 includes a new diagnosis for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which replaces the previous diagnoses (autism, PDD-NOS, Asperger Syndrome, Rett’s Disorder, and Childhood Integrative Disorder).
In addition to the new ASD diagnosis, there are two related diagnoses, Social Communication Disorder (SCD) and Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD). For further information about the new diagnoses of ASD, SCD, or DMDD, visit http://www.dsm5.org.
Research indicates that early diagnosis is associated with dramatically better outcomes for individuals with autism. The earlier a child is diagnosed, the earlier he can begin benefiting from one of many specialized interventions.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide early indicators of ASD. For example, an individual with an ASD may:
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The prevalence of ASD is increasing. Based on parent reports, the prevalence of diagnosed ASD in 2011-2012 was estimated to be 2.00% for children aged 6-17, with an estimate of 1 in 50. School-aged boys were over four times more likely than school-aged girls to have ASD. The incidence of autism is consistent around the globe. Autism knows no racial, ethnic, or social boundaries, and family income, lifestyle, and educational levels do not affect the chance of the occurrence of autism.