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Team Approach Still Gold Standard for ASD Diagnosis

By Shana R. Spindler, Ph.D. on October 10, 2013


Background: A multidisciplinary approach that incorporates clinical evaluations and behavioral observations has been the gold standard for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis. Given the cost and time associated with multiple evaluations, researchers are investigating if a lean model of diagnosis that utilizes fewer assessments can diagnose ASD equally well.


What’s new: Researchers at the Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre in Gothenburg, Sweden, designed a study to find which autism assessments best diagnose ASD or if a multidisciplinary approach is still needed. The researchers compared independent assessments for 34 children age 24 to 46 months using psychiatric evaluation, Griffiths’ Developmental Scales, language assessment, the Diagnostic Interview for Social and Communication disorders (DISCO), the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), and preschool/home observation. After completion of the independent assessments, the clinicians held a diagnostic case conference for each child to deliver a final diagnosis.


Of the six assessments examined in the study, the most informative was the preschool/home observation, while the psychiatric evaluation matched poorest with the final diagnosis. No single assessment type was perfect, and this especially held true for female children. Based on the poor agreement between individual assessments, the researchers suggest that a comprehensive clinical evaluation should remain the gold standard for ASD diagnosis.
Why it’s important: Families and insurance providers rely on studies like these to determine which diagnostic assessments are necessary for proper care. Given the findings in this study, a comprehensive evaluation that utilizes multiple assessment types likely offers the best care to date.

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