Screening and Diagnosis

The CDC currently estimates that 1 out of 68 children will be diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, and boys are 4 1/2 to 5 times more likely to be diagnosed than girls. Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder, and children diagnosed with ASD share similar challenges with communication, social ability, and behavior. Because no two individuals with ASD exhibit exactly the same characteristics, professionals must approach diagnosis cautiously and conservatively.

Diagnosis for ASD is done by observing and interacting with the child or adult and administering specific autism screening and diagnostic instruments. The resources in this section are designed to help you understand the red flags or warning signs of ASD, when and how individuals should be screened for evaluation, and how an individual may be diagnosed with ASD.


First Signs has information for healthcare providers, community members, and families and a helpful section on sharing those first concerns with your healthcare provider.

The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers is a commonly used parent reported developmental screening tool for toddlers between 16 and 30 months of age.

The Centers for Disease Control now has a screening tool webpage specifically for healthcare providers understand when to screen, how to involve families, and what types of screening tools are available.

Developmental Pediatricians are one of several healthcare specialists able to accurately diagnose ASD and / or other developmental or co-morbid disorders.

The American Academy of Pediatrics provides an in-depth look at ways to improve screening, surveillance, and identification of disabilities.

For children diagnosed with ASD and other qualifying diagnoses, Care Connection for Children is a statewide network for children with special healthcare needs.

Commonwealth Autism Service, CAS, is a major portal for resources and information in the Commonwealth of Virginia. CAS manages a Transdisciplinary Autism Assessment Clinic that offers a transdisciplinary comprehensive diagnostic assessment for children 18 months to 7 years old for whom a diagnosis of autism or another Pervasive Developmental Disorder is suspected. Their website also houses a list of statewide Assessment Centers.

Guides and Fact Sheets

Medical Home is an important concept for all children, but especially children with complex conditions who often see a wide variety of specialists. A flowchart has also been developed to help families navigate the complex system of screening and diagnosis.

The American Academy of Neurology's fact sheet on ASD screening and diagnosis details the various types of tests that may be ordered for the child suspected of having ASD.

Getting an ASD diagnosis for an adult is not easy. Autism-Help has developed a Fact Sheet on Diagnosis of ASD in Adults that may be helpful

Videos and Training

ACE offers a variety of videos and trainings to meet the needs of both family members and professionals.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has created a Powerpoint training on "Integrating Screening Guidelines in Primary Care Pediatrics" for healthcare providers, and a webinar that offers an update and review of the epidemiology, etiology, demographics, and recommendations for screening, diagnosis, and treatment.

The Centers for Disease Control has developed an extensive online learning module, Autism Case Training (ACT), which provides several types of continuing education credits. Participants will gain knowledge and skills to improve early identification of children with ASD and ensure timely and appropriate care.

Autism Speaks has developed an ASD Video Glossary. This innovative web-based tool was designed to help parents and professionals learn more about the early red flags and diagnostic features of ASD. The glossary contains over a hundred video clips and is available free of charge.

The National Autism Professional Development Center on ASD (NAPDC) has developed a module on Early Identification of ASD that addresses the importance of early identification, including the benefits and challenges to families, communities, and society.

Research and Articles

Barbaro, J., & Dissanayake, C. (2009). Autism Spectrum Disorder in infancy and toddlerhood: A review of the evidence on early signs, early identification tools, and early diagnosis. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 30, 447-459.

King, T.M., Tandon, S.D., Macias, M.M., Healy, J.A., Duncan, P.M., Swigonski, N.L., Skipper, S.M., & Lipking, P.H. (2010). Implementing developmental screening and referrals: Lessons learned from a national project. Pediatrics, 125(2), 350-360.

Matson, J.L., Rieske, R.D., & Tureck, K. (2011). Additional considerations for the early detection and diagnosis of autism: Review of available instruments. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorder, 5, 1319-1326.

Pierce, K., Carter, C., Weinfeld, M., Desmond, J., Hazin, R., Bjork, R., & Gallagher, N. (2011). Detecting, studying, and treating Autism early: The one-year well-baby check-up approach. Pediatrics, 159(3), 458-465.