There are no medical tests for diagnosing autism.
An accurate diagnosis must be based on observation of the individual’s communication, behaviour, and developmental levels. However, because many of the behaviours associated with autism are shared by other disorders, various medical tests may be ordered to rule out or identify other possible causes of the symptoms being exhibited.
The characteristic behaviours of autism spectrum disorders may or may not be apparent in infancy (18 to 24 months), but usually become obvious during early childhood (24 months to 6 years). While there is no one behavioural or communications test that can detect autism, several screening instruments have been developed that are now used in diagnosing autism. When autism is suspected, your child will need to be referred to someone who specializes in diagnosing autism spectrum disorders. This may be a developmental pediatrician, a psychiatrist or psychologist. Other professionals may be included who are better able to observe and test your child in specific areas.
This multidisciplinary assessment team may include some or all of the following professionals. They may also be involved in treatment programs.
- Developmental pediatrician – Treats health problems of children with developmental
delays or handicaps.
- Child psychiatrist – A medical doctor who may be involved in the initial diagnosis can
prescribe medication and provide help with behaviour/emotional adjustments and social
- Clinical psychologist – Specializes in understanding the nature and impact of
developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders. May perform
psychological and assessment tests, and may help with behaviour modification and
- Occupational therapist – Focuses on practical, self-help skills that will aid in daily living,
such as dressing and eating; may work on sensory processing, coordination of
movement, and fine motor skills.
- Physical therapist – Helps improve the use of bones, muscles, joints, and nerves to
develop muscle strength, coordination, and motor skills.
- Speech/language therapist – Involved in the improvement of communication skills,
including speech and language.
- Social Worker – May provide counselling services or act as case manager, helping to arrange services.
Getting a Referral for a Diagnosis in the Saskatoon Area
Children and Youth (0 – 18 years):
The first step is to ask your family doctor for a referral to a specialist for an autism assessment. The Alvin Buckwold Child Development Program at the Kinsmen Children’s Center offers ASD assessments to children and youth in the Saskatoon area. Families can also self refer to this program. Here is their contact information:
Alvin Buckwold Child Development Program
Kinsmen Children’s Centre
1319 Colony Street
Saskatoon, SK S7N 2Z1
1-877-405-0042 (toll free)
There are also private assessment options in the Saskatoon area. The Government of SK website lists ASD service providers that offer ASD assessments.
If you are an adult seeking an ASD assessment please contact Lynn Latta, the Executive Director at Autism Services of Saskatoon, to be placed on the public waitlist for autism assessment.