Assessing Your Child for Autism

The challenges of parenting a child can be daunting, but even more so if that child shows signs of an autism spectrum disorder. During Columbia Psychiatry’s BlogTalkRadio show earlier this month, Catherine Lord, PhD—renowned autism expert and director of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain at NewYork-Presbyterian/Westchester Division—and her colleague David Kuhn, PhD, presented some first steps for parents.

Red flags: toddlers or preschoolers

  • Failure to seek help from others or to point out objects of interest. Examples are failure to ask a parent to reach a toy on a high shelf or failure to bring something to Mom or Dad to look at.
  • Not understanding symbolic play. Examples of symbolic play are pretending that a banana is a telephone or that the family dog is a superhero.
  • Difficulty understanding language as well as difficulty speaking. The child may have limited topics of conversation or not know a sibling’s name.

An assessment should include:

  • A time commitment on the part of the provider. A thorough evaluation should take six to eight hours, not 15 minutes.
  • Speaking with parents to get their perspective on their child’s behavior: What does the child do? Not do?
  • Observing the child’s behavior in particular social settings.
  • Determining how the child fits (or does not) into a diagnosis of autism.

The complete podcast is available here.

For more information on the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain, call 914-997-5848 or go to