Diagnosis of ASD in Older Children, Adolescents and Adults

Diagnosis in older children and adolescents

Older children whose ASD symptoms are noticed after starting school are often first recognized and evaluated by the school’s special education team. The school’s team may refer these children to a health care professional.

Parents may talk with a pediatrician about their child’s social difficulties including problems with subtle communication. These subtle communication issues may include understanding tone of voice, facial expressions, or body language. Older children may have trouble understanding figures of speech, humor, or sarcasm. Parents may also find that their child has trouble forming friendships with peers. The pediatrician can refer the child for further evaluation and treatment.

Diagnosis in adults

Adults who notice the signs and symptoms of ASD should talk with a doctor and ask for a referral for an ASD evaluation. While testing for ASD in adults is still being refined, adults can be referred to a psychologist or psychiatrist with ASD expertise. The expert will ask about concerns, such as social interaction and communication challenges, sensory issues, repetitive behaviors, and restricted interests. Information about the adult’s developmental history will help in making an accurate diagnosis, so an ASD evaluation may include talking with parents or other family members.

The National Institute of Mental Health was the primary source for this article.