The autism spectrum disorder is one of the most profound developmental disorders that is mainly observed in childhood. The main symptoms of autism spectrum disorder are difficult social interaction and communication. There are a number of tests that can contribute to the diagnosis of an autism disorder.
As this is very difficult and often an exclusionary diagnosis, the tests can only be supportive but not conclusive. There are tests for children as well as questionnaires for their parents, but of course only honest answers from all parties involved can help in making a diagnosis. A severe autism spectrum disorder is often diagnosed in childhood, but there are also tests for adults for autism spectrum disorder, where the lighter forms of the disorder are usually diagnosed. Since the diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder is very difficult and can often be masked by other psychological problems such as anxiety disorders, depression or ADHD, misdiagnosis often occurs.
What tests are there for children?
For children there are various tests that can confirm the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Common to all tests is that they focus on the child’s social and linguistic abilities, as well as on empathy and intelligence. The most commonly used tests are the CARS, ARI-I and ADOS tests (ADOS test see below).
The CARS test stands for “Childhood Autism Rating Scale”. This is used to test motor and language skills, as well as social skills and empathy. It is important that the tasks set for the child are appropriate to the child’s age.
Various situations are tested: 1. the child is placed in situations in which he or she must interact with the examiner in a certain way. Empathy, eye contact and behaviour in conflict situations are taken into account. 2. the child is encouraged to imitate language according to its age.
3. the child is placed in unpleasant situations in which the child’s affect is assessed. In other words, it is assessed whether the child becomes unreasonably angry or whether the child is unreasonably indifferent. 4. the child’s motor skills are assessed.
Here, the fine motor skills are of particular importance, which may be reduced or even absent in autistic children. 5. the child’s ability to relate to things is tested. This includes, for example, playing and humanizing a cuddly toy.
6. it is tested whether the child is able to adapt to different, even foreign situations and to act appropriately in them. In many autistic children this ability is diminished so that they need a lot of structure and repetitive processes to feel comfortable. 7. it is tested whether the child is able to establish eye contact with the examiner.
Many autistic children avoid this. 8. hearing ability is tested. Many autistic children do not listen to their own name.
10. fear reactions are tested. This is done either by separation from the parents or by scary objects. 11. the intelligence of the child is tested.
Depending on the type of autism spectrum disorder, the test may be below average or above average. The ARI-I test is a questionnaire for parents. This test should always be taken in parallel with other tests if possible. This allows a better assessment of the child’s deficits and a more accurate estimation of how the child’s everyday behaviour really is.