Pediatric Neurodevelopmental Evaluation
At Children’s Health, the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities focuses on making a diagnosis early, so that your child can start treatment as soon as possible. Our clinic is the largest multispecialty clinic serving children with autism and other developmental differences in North Texas, and one of the largest in the region. Our team has the specialized training and the experience to assess your child for autism spectrum disorder, make a diagnosis and match your child with the treatments they need.
What is a Pediatric Neurodevelopmental Evaluation?
There is no laboratory test to diagnose autism spectrum disorder. Instead, diagnoses are made via a developmental evaluation, where we observe the child and gather information from parents about their child’s development.
Using a standard diagnostic tool called the Autism Diagnostic Observation ScheduleTM- (ADOS), our psychologists watch your child doing different activities. This helps us evaluate whether your child is meeting milestones in areas like language, learning and social skills. ADOS is designed to identify autism spectrum disorder in a broad range of children, at many different ages.
What are the benefits of a Pediatric Neurodevelopmental Evaluation?
This evaluation can help get your child diagnosed and in treatment. With early diagnosis, we can direct you to a range of specialists – behavioral therapists, speech and occupational therapists and other specialists – who can work with your child. We also have licensed clinical social workers and education specialists who can help families find things like community services, education and tutoring. With treatment, your child can improve cognitive, social, language and communication skills. They also can learn practical skills to help them in daily life.
What to expect with a Pediatric Neurodevelopmental Evaluation?
What to expect before a neurodevelopmental evaluation?
Families are often referred to our center by a teacher or pediatrician who notices potential signs of autism spectrum disorder.
We will ask your pediatrician to complete a referral form that explains their concerns. You also need to submit other information, such as medical records, previous evaluations and school records.
Our team will need two to four weeks to review all the information, and a scheduler will help you make an appointment. You will need to fill out and submit an intake questionnaire to discuss your child’s development history.
What to expect during a neurodevelopmental evaluation?
Depending on your child’s age, your family should expect to meet with a psychologist for about four to six hours. If your child is young, you will usually be able to stay in the room with them while the psychologist conducts the developmental testing.
During this evaluation, your child will be given a range of questions and activities geared toward their age. For example, your child may be asked to follow directions, answer questions and play in various ways. Along the way, the psychology team will gather lots of information, including:
- Social, how your child interacts with others
- Emotional, how your child understands emotions in themselves and others
- Cognitive, how your child thinks, learns and understands
- Behavioral, including whether your child has behaviors that they repeat
It may be helpful for you to know that the evaluation is designed so that each child will be able to do some of the activities, while there may be some that will be too difficult.
What to expect after a neurodevelopmental evaluation?
Within two weeks, you will receive initial feedback on the pediatric developmental evaluation. We’ll also give you a list of steps to take so that your child can start treatment as soon as possible. Within a month, you will get a full report with detailed testing results and recommendations for treatment. You also will have a follow-up appointment with a psychologist, where you can ask questions and discuss the suggested treatment and other recommendations.
Your child might also be referred for medical tests, such as lab tests, genetic screening or an electroencephalogram (EEG). An EEG looks at patterns in the brain’s electrical activity that can be used to confirm an autism spectrum diagnosis.
Your child may be referred to different kinds of specialists, including:
- A speech therapist to help your child with speech and language
- An occupational therapist to work on motor skills or sensory issues, if your child over- or under-reacts to sights, sounds or smells
- A behavioral therapist to work on social and communication skills
- A psychiatrist to discuss potential medications, such as to help with sleep, anxiety or depression
We usually re-evaluate your child every three years to keep track of how they’re progressing and to get them any additional support they need.
How do I prepare my child for a Pediatric Neurodevelopmental Evaluation?
Depending on their age, you can explain to your child that they will be meeting for several hours with a psychologist who will ask them questions and play with them. You might let them know that there will be different kinds of activities. Some activities might remind them of things they do in school (if they are school age) and some might be easier than others.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I do if I suspect that my child has autism spectrum disorder?
If you and your family have concerns that your child may have autism spectrum disorder, you can speak with their school and get an educational evaluation. You can meet with your pediatrician and get a referral to the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities for resources beyond what the school offers.
What is the most effective treatment for autism spectrum disorder?
At the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities, we believe that children benefit most from integrated care that offers high quality psychological services, diagnostic evaluation and ongoing treatment.
Why does my child need developmental testing?
Early treatment is key. If you have a concern about your child’s development, it’s important to have an evaluation as soon as possible to see which treatments will be most helpful. While we think our therapies are helpful at any age, some are most helpful when started early in development. Also, an evaluation may find that your child is developing typically.