Diagnosing Autism in Children


We get a lot of questions from parents who are struggling to find an official diagnosis from a Pediatrician after taking the Autism Test on our website. Here was a question that we received recently from one of our blog readers who gave us permission to publicly use the question. It was also answered in Issue 8 of Autism Parenting Magazine

Q: I have been going to a pediatrician about my son and his social interactions, to say it nicely. The school is working amazingly with him and me. The pediatrician asked me to do an on line test as well as his teacher. Results showed that my scores stated a diagnosis leaning towards autism but the teachers doesn’t (which she told me she gave him the benefit of the doubt on most). He has decided to look in other areas (i.e. lactose intolerance (negative) celiac (negative) we are waiting for a sleep disorder test) blood work has been mostly fine. After talking with the school over and over again they are pretty sure from their point of view and with working with other children with autism that he does have a form of it and they think Asperger’s Syndrome sounds closest, though I would think PDD-NOS [Pervasive Developmental Delay-Not Otherwise Specified]. I did your test and it did turn out as mild-moderate. I told the pediatrician I know my son has at least an anxiety disorder and he just said ok. But how do I get him to understand that my son can be very mellow and quiet most of the time but under stress or just out of the blue he can do a 180? I feel like he just doesn’t understand what I am saying. My son concentrates very well… to the point of fixating. The pediatrician said well he can definitely focus well so it can’t be autism. I feel even more certain that even though it wouldn’t be severe autism it would definitely be Asperger’s or PDD-NOS.  How do I make the pediatrician look in that direction and not at just separate symptoms (like not sleeping or having headaches)… sorry this is very broken but I am a little frustrated lol.

A: Not to sound too blunt, but you need a new pediatrician.  A common misconception that parents have is that the longer a pediatrician has been in business –the more knowledgeable they are. I disagree.  Unfortunately, I have run across many pediatricians that think they know it all because they have been a pediatrician for twenty or more years.  What I have often found is that, although they may be experienced on medical issues and emergencies, they often don’t stay current with neurological and behavioral differences.  In plain English, they know the word autism but little else about it. I urge you to educate this pediatrician when you go into the office to sign a form to transfer your son’s medical records to another office. If you don’t educate him, who will? We don’t want more kids being left to the wayside.

Diagnosing Autism in Children

How to deal with your Pediatrician

For starters, your pediatrician told you that “he can focus well so it can’t be autism.” Really?!  Why don’t you ask Jacob Barnett and Temple Grandin if they can focus well?  Geniuses’ aside, in my own personal experiences working and raising children with autism, they CAN focus.  When my daughter was two years old she would align books by color or by shape all over the living room floor. She would spend hours focused. My floor would be covered in lines and rows of books. People with Asperger’s usually fixate on one topic or on one thing in particular.  Every autistic I have ever met can focus unless they are having a sensory related problem.

As far as the 180 degree change in behavior, it sounds like your son is either getting around to processing auditory information (audio-filtering) or being overloaded by sensory information and is having a meltdown. I don’t know for sure because I am not there to witness it, but I recommend bringing information on sensory processing issues and meltdowns to your appointment in conjunction with printouts about being able to focus as a high-functioning autistic.

If you are interested in a checklist of the early signs of Autism, you may want to check out my new book: Early Signs of Autism in Toddlers, Infants and Babies: Diagnosis and treatment options

Let us give the pediatrician some trusted resources:

About Focusing


http://www.myaspergerschild.com/2013/04/list-of-symptoms-for-high-functioning.html – website owned by Mark Hutten M.A.- Counseling Psychologist, Home-Based Family Therapist and Online Parent Coach

About audio-filtering

http://nikigirl613.blogspot.com/2009/08/carly-fleischmann-autistic-girl-who-is.html – (references Carly Fleischmann see the News Section for more info on or by Carly)

About Asperger’s



For help finding a pediatrician, first make a list of the pediatricians that are covered by your insurance. Then research them online to see which ones got good reviews. Next, call and setup appointments to interview them. Ask them about their knowledge about autism. You can do a search for pediatric reviews by state if you are in the USA http://www.healthgrades.com/pediatrics-directory, if not then Google Pediatric reviews.

Good luck. Just remember you know your child better than anyone. If you think your child needs help, keep searching for resources. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at Leslie@AutismParentingMagazine.com.

All the Best,

Leslie A. Burby




Mark Blakey

Mark Blakey is the founder of the Aspergers Test Site, after a successful career working in IT Mark wanted to share what he learned from his own diagnosis. He is the author of "Emotional Mastery for Adults with Aspergers" and "An Introduction to Aspergers Syndrome". Having received lots of questions from parents with autistic children, Mark went on to found Autism Parenting Magazine. The magazine has become an essential resource aimed at improving the quality of life for families effected by Autism. Its a monthly publication containing lots of helpful articles to help develop social skills, manage challenging behavior and improve communication.

  • A R Rigby says:

    There is a reason Asperger Syndrome is called a hidden disability and that is the effects of this type of autism are not readily apparent. Getting an official diagnosis is not always easy and the ones testing may come up with different conclusions. It seems a bit odd that those who do not have the ability to think the way we (AS) do are the ones who define who and what we are. Do your best to get an official diagnosis, especially if it is AS. Early intervention is extremely important.

  • Nik says:

    I think they do this to weed out those who don’t need the help…you have to be like a dog with a bone…write everything down..contact all the support you can…it takes a long time but you’re doing it for your son and his support, so don’t give up!!

  • Joy Balmer says:

    When my son (now in his 40s) had some traits as a toddler that I recognized from a TV program on autism, I asked his pediatrician about it. His answer: “Some children just have more rhythmic needs than others.” That was forgiveable in the 1960s–none of us knew much about autism. But not in the 21st century, when pediatricians should be much more knowlegable about autism, at least to the point of recognizing possibilities and referring a parent to someone specializing in the subject. Had I been able to find better advice back then, I would have come to yet another conclusion decades before I did–that I also am on the spectrum. I learned this only at age 65, at the time that both my then adult sons were evaluated and determined to be on the spectrum.

  • In the state of Washington, the pediatrician is not an acceptable diagnostician for Autism for the Division of Developmental Disabilities. A person must be a Clinical Psychologist (which I am); Developmental Pediatrician; Board Eligible Neurologist; or Board Eligible Psychiatrist. There are many physicians out there who need to educate themselves more about Autism spectrum disorders. I suggest going to a Psychologist familiar with ASD to diagnose because testing is the specialty area of psychologists.
    Liz Pechous, Ph.D.

  • naomi hill says:

    having read this i feel im in exactly the same position,
    our school are not very forth coming either though, i feel like im banging my head againt a brick wall and struggling, my husband also agree’s there is something we just dont know what, my son is 8 and scored 61 on your online testm i need some help. xx

  • Your advice is spot on, Leslie! I changed doctors 3 times until I got someone to take me seriously. Then I found a psychologist on my own. If I had hung around with the first doctors, we would never have gotten a diagnosis for my son, or maybe one very late. You really have to keep fighting until you get what you need, but once you do, it will be smoother sailing.

  • penny mansfield says:

    We have recently had a diagnosis of PDA (UK definition pathalogical demand avoidance/ an autistic spectrum disorder) for my bright verbal but highly anxious/ angry 12 year old grandson This was done privately as general medicine had been supportive in referring to CAMHS, the mental health service, but there would be a 2 YEAR WAIT !! for an appointment with a psychologist. Since the diagnosis, and our increasing knowledge, thanks to books by Temple Grandin and others, we have found him much easier to understand and he is much happier.
    It is medical negligence to fail to support and diagnose ASDs early enough in a child’s life so that a positive outcome can be reached in adulthood. The parental struggle can be hard enough without the added hurdles of avoidance from the medical profession.

  • Lorraine O'Farrell says:

    My son is not yet diagnosed here in the UK. I just took the test for him and got 43! I know he’s got aspergers but professionals keep saying well he made eye contact with me!! Can someone please confirm my thoughts that this makes no odds? Ive seen him not make eye contact with many people. It all depends on the situation, who they are, how well he knows them etc. Sometimes a stranger will make a comment to him when out and about and he will not look at them and goes mute, just pretends they are not there, or will stare angrily at me until I answer for him.

  • Daryl Curtis says:

    Twenty years of experience can help one become aware they have learned little about the subject, but may be able to see the shape of their ignorance and rigidity. A more informed open minded pediatrician sounds like one who will look at all the possibilities for your child

  • Michelle says:

    My boyfriend is 35 and just realizing for the first time he has Aspergers/ASD, after a lifetime of difficulties keeping a job, anxiety/social difficulties, executive functioning problems etc. He has finally agreed to try therapy (CBT) per the recommendation of his dr. and a requirement of his work, but he is radically resistant to it–not only because he does not want to talk to a stranger about his condition–but he has no faith in a therapist being able to “recreate” the stresses he endures in daily life to the point of being able to help him learn coping mechanisms. He says I am the only person he can talk to about it, that I’m his therapist, and that’s enough. Not a doctor who will try to repair him. How, oh please someone tell me how a doctor has been successful helping their loved one with anxiety/ASD through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or otherwise so that I don’t feel so incredibly evil for pressuring him to try just the one appointment he has tomorrow. What can I do if he decides it’s not for him? I can’t force him to go but his inability to cope with his differences makes life increasingly difficult without his job getting him out of the house.

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