Can a pediatrician diagnose autism?

Can a Pediatrician Diagnose Autism?

Can a pediatrician diagnose autism? That’s a common question among parents, especially if they find their child missing certain developmental milestones. In this post, we address how a pediatrician can support you and your child.

Autism, also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder. While experts believe there is a strong genetic component to this condition, there is no specific test that can help a doctor diagnose autism.

At 18 and 24 months of age, all children undergo a screening for ASD, even if they may not exhibit any symptoms.

Can a Pediatrician Diagnose Autism?

A pediatrician will usually be your first point of contact when trying to find out if your child has autism. They monitor your child’s development and record whether your child has reached certain milestones, such as waving or talking.

Children with autism tend to sit, walk, and crawl at the typical milestones, but they might have certain play or communication patterns that differ from those of other children.

Your pediatrician will likely not diagnose your child, but they can perform a screening, particularly if they notice early signs of autism:

  • Little to no eye contact
  • Little to no response to facial expressions
  • Difficulty determining what others are thinking or feeling through their facial expressions
  • Obsession with certain activities, toys, or other objects
  • Says no single words by 15 months old
  • Says no 2-word phrases by 24 months old

There are many social, communication, and behavioral differences your pediatrician may screen for. But remember that no two children with ASD are the same. The quantity and severity of their symptoms can vary quite a bit.

Additionally, not all children with developmental delays have ASD.

What Happens After a Screening?

A screening is also not the same as a diagnosis. If your child has a positive screen for autism, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be diagnosed on the spectrum.

Your pediatric office will likely have a screening tool that they can use to formally screen your child. If the screening is positive, they will likely refer you to a developmental pediatrician, pediatric neurologist, or child psychologist. These specialists are highly qualified to diagnose autism in children.

How Does a Specialist Diagnose Autism?

A specialist will come to a diagnosis based on a couple of factors:

  • How you describe your child’s development
  • Thorough analyses of your child’s history, such as whether there is a family history of ASD
  • Careful observations of your child’s behavior

While there are no tests to specifically identify ASD, there are certain tests your medical provider might choose to administer based on your child’s symptoms. Certain conditions can cause symptoms that mimic those of ASD:

  • Hearing tests. Hearing issues can lead to difficulties with language and social skills.
  • Blood tests. If your child is at a high risk of lead poisoning, then they may need to undergo blood work to check lead levels. Lead poisoning can lead to certain behavioral disorders.
  • Vitamin deficiency tests. A child with ASD may have trouble with certain food textures, smells, or tastes. Your pediatrician might want to test for vitamin deficiencies.

With the proper resources, children with autism can feel supported in school and at home. The key is to identify the signs early so you and your child can obtain the right support. An experienced pediatrician can help you on that journey.

Call the Fit Life Pediatrics office at 305-777-3505 to schedule your first appointment.