Do you suspect your child might have Asperger’s syndrome? Has your pediatrician recommended testing? You’re probably stressed out and worried, wondering what comes next. It’s not going to be easy, but with a positive mindset and an understanding of how the system works, you and your child will both get through this. In the end, having an official diagnosis will help you get the services and extra help your child needs, both in school and in life.
The Steps to Diagnosis
- Pack your patience; you’re going to need it. This isn’t an overnight process. How long it takes is going to depend a lot on your location and your insurance. You’re going to find yourself on waiting lists. You’re going to speak unkind words about your insurance provider.
- Get on as many waiting lists as you can. Contact your insurance company. Get a list of the names of child psychologists in your area that accept your insurance. Look them up. Find out their credentials, especially their experience with autism and Asperger’s. Call the ones that look the most promising.
- Talk to the school district and request to have your child evaluated. While school psychologists aren’t quite the same as a practicing psychologist, you can at least get enough information to qualify your child for an IEP — Individualized Education Plan. You can always adjust the IEP later if you need to.
- While you are waiting, look for a provider for yourself. Yes, you. This is hard. A counselor will help you get through this process and the other challenges that will come up as you raise a child on the autism spectrum. Your counselor can probably recommend a good support group for you, too.
What to Expect from the Psychologist
- The psychologist should spend a few sessions evaluating your child. Don’t expect to walk out the first day with a diagnosis. You want this done right, not fast.
- The psychologist will evaluate your child through a few play and talk sessions, will meet with you to discuss what you see at home, and will probably have you fill out several questionnaires. Some medical testing may be required to rule out physical problems that can cause your child to present symptoms similar to Asperger’s.
- You might get referred to a neuropsychologist for a full workup. This is a good thing and will be really helpful. You could find out a lot about what makes your child tick. Plus, the neuropsychologist report will provide advice on accommodations that the school should make to help your child. These reports carry a lot of weight.
Other Evaluations to Arrange
Once your child is diagnosed with Asperger’s, you will need to set up a few more evaluations. You should arrange for speech and language testing. Even though Asperger’s children are known for being verbal, they tend to have an unusual quality to their speech. Testing and therapy will help your child learn better ways to communicate, which in turn will improve his or her social skills.
An evaluation by an occupational therapist is also a good idea, especially if your child has problems with sensory processing. Asperger’s syndrome and sensory processing disorder (SPD) have a tendency to go hand-in-hand. Getting proper treatment and therapy for SPD will help your child cope with the world a bit easier.
Getting the diagnosis is only the beginning. Use this as a leaping point to build the team that will be so crucial to your child and your family. Talk to the team about services and take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way.
Photo by U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv