Diagnosing autism – or an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – is a difficult thing to do.
There is no single test. It takes time.
For those seeking our help, it starts with an initial assessment.
This is just the beginning.
Factor in a school-based observation; an IQ test (learning difficulties can have a huge impact on social function); an in-depth autism diagnostic interview, which can take up to four hours to complete; a play-based assessment with a psychologist; further reflection, pulling all our findings together; trying to reach a consensus . . .
Some patience is required from all involved.
It’s a complex process and one that, we understand, can be difficult and daunting.
Imagine then the immense benefits that would follow were a test – and possible treatment – for autism (and associated conditions) to be developed.
This could be – according to one report that we read this week – ‘on the horizon’, thanks to pioneering research that is being carried out in the United States.
It’s important to underline that such an outcome is a long way off at this point, the results being preliminary, the benefits to those experiencing social difficulties theoretical.
That said, the mere prospect of such a test (and potential treatment) is both significant and exciting. It’s all due to work being done with rhesus monkeys.
It involves measuring levels of a hormone, arginine vasopressin (AVP), which regulates blood pressure. Scientists in the US have discovered that less social animals had AVP levels almost one-third lower than their more gregarious peers, a finding that was replicated in a small sample of children, 14 of whom are autistic. While stressing – again – that the results are preliminary, researchers believe measuring AVP might hold the answer to developing a test for autism (it has been described as ‘a biomarker for low sociability’) – and a target for developing drugs to help alleviate social impairment.
That such a test (and treatment) would help those experiencing such issues is obvious.
Diagnosing an ASD (or not diagnosing one – as there are often other explanations for social difficulties, such as family, school and/or psychological issues) can be a great help for families as it helps to understand problems and unlock access to resources and support.
Here at CPUK, we strive to make the process as painless as possible (please see our ASD Assessments video for further details).
That said, diagnosing autism is a difficult thing to do.
There is no single test yet.
It does take time.
Given that around 1.1% of the British population (some 695,000 people) are thought to be on the autism spectrum, many of them finding the condition severely distressing and debilitating, even the smallest step towards developing such a test is to be viewed with great optimism.
The research continues. We’ll be watching with interest.
Got a question about autism and/or ASD diagnoses?
Need help, support or advice?
Contact CPUK and we’ll run through all the options.