Autism is one of those common conditions which remain unidentified or undiagnosed until very late into the developmental or formative years of a child. The reasons behind this are limited awareness of parents as well as denial or hesitancy in accepting their child’s problems.
A major reason why parents or professional might “miss out” on reading or recognizing early signs of Autism is that there are no obvious physical impairments. Generally, your family doctor might notice some symptoms or might observe that there is sometime “amiss” in the child and refer you to a developmental pediatrician. A developmental pediatrician is the first person to diagnosis or suspect “autism”.
Investigations conducted for autism
For complete assessment of your child, you should consult a team of professional including developmental pediatrician, a psychologist, an occupational therapist, a speech and language pathologist and a few others. They all gather a variety of information regarding the child according to their area of expertise and will then help in developing a treatment plan for the child. This team can pinpoint the most important and relevant areas in which the child has a problem. For example, social quotient/social interaction, comprehension/ understanding, hyperactivity, etc.
Investigations conducted for autism
To confirm diagnosis in medical terms or to rule out other possible affecting factors, some investigations can be done. These investigations are help in supporting the clinical diagnosis and can add to the understanding of your child’s condition.
Neuro-imaging studies (MRI/CT/PET-CT): A Computerized Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the brain are neuro-imaging techniques. These show the gross structure from various views. These scans also indicate defects if any. In Autism, there is usually no damage to the structures of the brain and hence the MRI report of the brain may be near normal. Hence, studies are exploring the PET-CT scans in children with autism, in order to figure out which areas have anomalies and contribute to the deficits or problems. Some findings report problems related to the functioning of the temporal lobes of the brain, including the hippocampus and the amygdala. This area is responsible for organizing sensory input, auditory perception, language and speech production, memory association and formation and emotional expression. These probably correlate to the kind of issues seen in autism. Another area, which appears to be affected, is the cerebellum, which is important for balance and coordination.
Brain Stem Evoked Response Audiometry (BERA): In children with autism it is seen that there is a delay in speech or failure to respond to name-call. It is then that your doctor may recommend a BERA test to rule out any hearing problems. BERA is an objective method of picking up brain stem (part that connects brain and spine) potentials in response to audiological click sounds. These waves are recorded by electrodes placed over the scalp. This test helps in ruling out hearing deficits.
Electroencephalography (EEG): An Electroencephalograph or an EEG is a medical diagnostic test. This test is usually recommended to children with Autism. This test helps in the diagnosis of Epilepsy, which is a common associated condition of Autism. How this test works is that it records the electrical activity of the brain with the help of sensors. These sensors are attached to different areas on the scalp. A Neurologist prescribes EEG for children with Autism to detect or rule of Epilepsy. Nearly 30% of ASD patients are found to have epileptiform abnormalities but do not exhibit any clinical symptoms.