Having your child evaluated for autism can bring much emotion and many questions. In an effort to help families who are waiting to be seen in our center, we asked our schedulers to tell us the most frequently asked questions they receive from parents when scheduling a child’s diagnostic evaluation. Here’s what they told us:

1. Will my insurance cover this?

Insurance for mental health services differs from medical services; our services fall under both categories. Each plan has specifics as to number and type of services covered. See our previous blog on this topic.

For those whose primary insurance is Medicaid, a restriction is placed on community mental health services. Regional Support Networks (RSNs) for community mental health services require that families receive services in their geographic region. We are in the King County RSN and must work within the parameters of these restrictions when it comes to our services.

2. Why is my child being seen by a nurse practitioner (rather than a physician or psychologist) for the first appointment?

The first step in our diagnostic evaluation is getting a good developmental and medical history. Therefore the first appointment in the evaluation process is with an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) who observes the child and talks with parents about the child’s early years and behavior. This includes a discussion about developmental milestones and “red flags” or concerns that have arisen.

3. What happens after we meet with a nurse practitioner?

After your appointment with the ARNP, he or she will set up the next step in the process which is to be seen by another provider. It’s important to remember that there is no medical test for autism. No two children are alike and autism presents in a broad manner, thus the term “autism spectrum disorder”. We tailor our evaluations to a child’s unique specifications.

There are several disciplines who might be involved in this next step including psychologists, physicians, speech/language pathologists, psychometrists. A combination of factors including insurance and your child’s unique needs will determine how this is scheduled.

Our goal is to obtain an accurate picture of a child’s skills and to glean the information we, as evaluators, need to make an accurate diagnosis.

The most common clinical tools used in the evaluation might include an Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), developmental assessment, and cognitive assessment.

  • ADOS: This is an interactive assessment that evaluates social skills, communication abilities, and behaviors/interests.
  • Developmental assessment: Done with children under the age of 4. It measures verbal and non verbal problem-solving, as well as motor skills.
  • Cognitive assessment: Another name for an IQ test, which assesses intellectual abilities.

A diagnosis is made based on the clinical observation and judgment of the provider who has gathered a great deal of information.

4. How many appointments are needed?

It varies. The answer is this: as many appointments as needed to get the job done, given whatever restrictions we have. There is no one way of scheduling appointments, no single algorithm as there are many factors to take into consideration.

5. What happens after the evaluation is complete?

The last appointment in the evaluation process is called a “feedback appointment” in which the provider will share with you the results of the evaluation. All diagnoses are confirmed by one of the following credentialed providers; Developmental Pediatrician, Neurologist, Psychiatrist, Clinical Psychologist.

What we ask of you

  • Trust us. We see hundreds children each month and have been doing this for many years. We are committed to providing the best services for our families and are continuously working and reworking processes to improve them. The process we use for diagnostic assessments has evolved over time to be as efficient and successful as possible.
  • Be flexible. We schedule about three weeks out for appointments. If you receive a call or a message from a scheduler, be willing to take the appointment offered to you. Return the message promptly. We typically schedule as many as 80 appointments a day so schedulers will move on to the next person if they don’t hear back from you.

What you can expect from us

  • An environment and experience that involves the least amount of stress for you and your child
  • Staff who care about you and your child
  • A thorough evaluation and accurate diagnosis
  • Resources and support to help you and your child

Tips for preparing for your child’s evaluation:

Bring with you:

  • A few favorite toys
  • A snack or two
  • Change of clothes, diapers or pull-ups, just in case
  • Any reports of previous evaluations such as from a Birth to Three Center, IEP, mental health records

Call us if:

  • You need directions
  • Your child is sick and you’re unsure if you should keep your appointment. If your child, anyone in your family, or anyone who might accompany your child to the appointment has an active fever or rash, we’ll need to reschedule the appointment.
  • You need to cancel or reschedule for any reason. We kindly ask for 48 hours notice.