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Autism Myth #3: My doctor or my school ruled out autism
Dear Community, April is the month to honor people with autism and bring awareness to the challenges many families face. This is our series on autism myths. Below is myth #3. Please read and share. My doctor ruled out autism. Yep, I said it! Most doctors do not diagnose nor can they rule out autism. What’s that now? Although there are certainly some pediatricians and general practice doctors that diagnose autism, this is not the norm. Further, any doctor that truly can rule autism in or out, would do testing. Some developmental and behavioral pediatricians, psychiatrists, and pediatricians diagnose autism. In that case, they run autism specific tests, that may include some social skills testing, rating scales, or collaboration with other professionals. If your doctor is testing your child for autism, you would know. Again, if your child is being evaluated for autism, your doctor would tell you that and you would likely have to come in for a separate visit. This testing usually takes several hours, and there are specific tests doctors would use, such as the STAT, ADOS, GARS, CARS, and Vineland*. Note: the Vineland is not a diagnostic test for autism but is a developmental assessment commonly used during an autism evaluation. Alongside this myth is the idea that the speech therapist, occupational therapist, or school psychologist, ruled autism out. Again, these professionals do NOT diagnose autism independently. Specialists of this nature are often on diagnostic teams but do not independently diagnose OR rule out autism. Alongside this myth is the idea that, “my school ruled out autism.” Schools DO NOT diagnose or rule out autism. Schools will assess autism for the purpose of special education identification. That is, if schools are concerned that a child may have a qualifying disability, such as autism, they conduct evaluations to determine whether or not that child qualifies for services under that educational category. Schools can not and do not diagnose autism or rule it out. Why do doctors not diagnose autism though? Many parents feel frustrated to hear this news. They feel that their pediatricians know their children best and are able to answer so many other questions, why not this? There are a lot of reasons for this but a couple are most common:
- Autism is a complex diagnosis and most pediatricians and general practice doctors do not have specific training in autism or developmental disabilities.
- Doctors are charged with running through a long list of questions and assessments during well-checks and there simply isn’t time to do autism tests which often take several hours.