A survey of psychologists' diagnostic practices in the assessment of children with autistic disorder
Autistic disorder is a serious childhood disorder that is estimated to affect 1 in 1000 individuals. While no cure for autism exists, effective treatments are available that can greatly improve quality of life. However, interventions are most effective when provided at an early age, which underscores the need for early, accurate diagnosis. Identifying autistic disorder can be challenging because other disorders resemble and/or co-occur with autistic disorder. While several different instruments and procedures exist that have been used in autism diagnostic evaluations, few studies have examined the state of assessment practices typically followed by psychologists when assessing children suspected of autistic disorder. In fact, no study to date has compared the actual diagnostic practices of psychologists to best practice assessment guidelines outlined in the research literature on autism. This research project addresses this gap in the autism literature by surveying psychologists in the state of California on the assessment practices they typically follow when conducting a diagnostic evaluation of a child suspected of autistic disorder and compares these results to the best practice autism evaluation guidelines created the Department of Developmental Services (DDS). Exploration of the relationship between respondents' reported assessment practices and various demographic variables, perceived level of expertise, and self-rated familiarity with the DDS guidelines were secondary, exploratory analyses.