Understanding Common ASD Assessments

Overview of essential tools for autism spectrum disorder evaluation.


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The stack of papers that accompany comprehensive assessment reports for parents of children with autism can be daunting. The complex information enclosed may seem like a labyrinth of technical terms and numbers, but they play a vital role in providing a deeper understanding of your child's condition and pave the way for personalized interventions after an ASD assessment.

According to Amber Foster, Assessment Coordinator at the Jadis Blurton Family Development Center, regular assessments provide crucial checkpoints in the developmental journey for children with ASD.

“Early intervention, both in the classroom and outside of the classroom, is the key to success for children,” Amber explains.  “Assessments for children with ASD are critical for helping to understand the child's functioning, including their strengths and weaknesses."

Assessments help parents as well as schools understand how to best support the child so they can realize their potential.

By gaining a deeper understanding of a child's individual profile through assessments, therapists and educators can tailor interventions to their specific needs. This personalized approach maximizes the effectiveness of interventions and supports the child's overall progress.

Some of the most common ASD assessment tools are summarized below with help from Amber.

Assessment tool #1:  Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised

Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) is a structured interview used to diagnose autism spectrum disorder. It is considered a gold-standard assessment tool and is administered to parents or caregivers who are familiar with the individual's history. 

A trained clinician conducts the interview, which covers various areas, such as early development, communication, social interaction, play, and repetitive behaviors. 

The questions aim to gather information on a child’s ASD-related characteristics.

“The ADI-R is an intensive, standardized interview with parents and generally lasts between one to two hours,” says Amber.

Assessment tool #2: Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule

The Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) is a commonly used, standardized assessment tool used to evaluate and diagnose autism spectrum disorder.

The primary purpose of the ADOS is to observe and assess an individual's social communication skills, as well as any behaviors associated with ASD.

During the ADOS assessment, a clinician closely observes the individual's behavior, social interactions, communication skills, and repetitive or restricted patterns of interest or behavior. Following a standardized protocol, the clinician records the individual's responses and behaviors.

The information gathered from the ADOS assessment is used in conjunction with other clinical observations, interviews, and assessments to make a comprehensive evaluation and diagnosis of ASD. 

It helps professionals determine the presence and severity of ASD symptoms, and it also informs appropriate interventions and support strategies for the individual.

Amber explains, “The ADOS is a series of structured and semi-structured tasks that the child engages in and generally lasts 30 to 60 minutes.”

Assessment tool #3: Childhood Autism Rating Scale

The Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS-2) is another commonly used assessment tool for evaluating the presence and severity of autism spectrum disorder in children. It is a behavior rating scale that helps clinicians and researchers assess various aspects of a child's behavior and functioning.

The CARS-2 test consists of 15 items that cover areas such as social interaction, communication, repetitive behaviors, and sensory responsiveness. 

The items are rated based on observed behaviors and information gathered from parents, caregivers, and other sources. The ratings are then used to determine the child's overall level of autistic impairment.

The CARS-2 test provides a quantitative measure of autism symptomatology and can aid in diagnosing ASD, monitoring progress, and evaluating treatment outcomes. 

According to Amber, “the CARS-2 is a form that the parents fill out and can be done at home and then sent in for scoring.” 

Assessment tool #4: Wechsler Intelligence Scale - Fifth Edition

The Wechsler Intelligence Scale is a widely used and highly respected series of intelligence tests developed by David Wechsler. 

The tests are designed to measure a person's cognitive abilities and provide an overall intelligence quotient (IQ) score. 

The Wechsler Intelligence Scale is used to assess intellectual functioning, cognitive strengths, and weaknesses across various domains, such as verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, working memory, and processing speed. 

These tests provide valuable insights into an individual's intellectual capabilities and can assist in educational planning, diagnosis of learning disabilities, and identifying areas for intervention and support.

“The WISC-V takes around two hours to administer,” Amber says.

How often should children be assessed?

The ideal frequency of assessment for your child depends on several factors. 

After an ASD diagnosis, parents may request a reassessment to confirm their child's current level of functioning, while schools may seek updated assessments for better support planning. 

Typically, reassessing children more frequently than every two to three years is unnecessary unless there are notable concerns that require closer evaluation.

Amber advises that it is not essential to repeat the ADI-R or ADOS assessments once a child has been diagnosed with ASD. Instead, the CARS-2 assessment is used to obtain an up-to-date understanding of the child's functioning.


Visit Resources here to download our curated list of assessment services.