As research on autism spectrum disorder (ASD) advances, many clinicians are incorporating a multidisciplinary approach to evaluations and treatment. A multidisciplinary approach can both ease and expedite the evaluation process, as well as provide families with a helpful range of resources that they can pursue during treatment.
A multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary approach to diagnostic evaluation uses information collected by professionals and clinicians from a range of backgrounds and specialties in order to provide a comprehensive diagnosis. Some common areas of multidisciplinary evaluation are as follows:
- Psychology: provides an analysis of a child’s developmental abilities and challenges, including any difficulties secondary to underlying behavioral, emotional, or cognitive function issues.
- Communication: a speech-language assessment done by an speech-language pathologist can provide insight into any developmental speech or language issues, including language processing disorders, speech delays, and social language and pragmatics.
- Occupational Therapy: an occupational therapist can help assess the functional struggles that a child with ASD may face in their daily lives, such as organization and planning difficulties, self-care skills, and sensory processing issues.
- Physical Therapy: a physical therapist can help a child grow and strengthen gross motor skills such as running, walking, and climbing, which children need in order to gain independence and complete daily tasks and routines.
Parent involvement is an important component of the multidisciplinary team. Parents are able to provide information about a child’s abilities and behavior outside of the evaluation setting, where not all instances of a child’s behavior are observable. The evaluation setting can often elicit different reactions and behaviors that a child would not typically exhibit in a familiar setting, meaning that clinicians rely on parent report to give them an accurate depiction of how a child behaves and where they struggle on a daily basis. Teachers and other therapists who work with the child are often asked to give descriptions of behavior as well, so that clinicians performing the evaluation can work from as many perspectives as possible.
Moving forward with treatment:
Many clinicians and professionals have found that using the multidisciplinary approach to an evaluation can make the diagnosis process faster and simpler for both parents and child. By gaining insight from a variety of professional sources like those listed above, clinicians can get a better and more accurate understanding of where a child could benefit from treatment, making it easier for them to build a care team designed specifically for that child’s needs and goals. Ideally, a child’s care team will be able to continue the multidisciplinary approach as they move forward with treatment, in order to provide consistent and overlapping care across all areas of treatment.
Do you have questions about your child’s development or diagnostic evaluations? Contact the Goldman Center of Chicago to speak with one of our pediatric specialists who can answer all of your questions! (773) 998-8500
Altavas, Anna. “An Interdisciplinary Team Model in Diagnosing Autism Helps Brendan Find His Voice.” On the Pulse, Seattle Children’s Hospital, 30 Apr. 2018, https://pulse.seattlechildrens.org/an-interdisciplinary-team-model-in-diagnosing-autism-helps-brendan-find-his-voice/.
Cartwright, Charles N. “Assessing Young Children with ASD: A Multidisciplinary Approach.” Autism Spectrum News, YAI Autism Center, 1 Oct. 2009, https://autismspectrumnews.org/assessing-young-children-with-asd-a-multidisciplinary-approach/.
Gerdts J, Mancini J, Fox E, et al. Interdisciplinary Team Evaluation: An Effective Method for the Diagnostic Assessment of Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2018;39(4):271‐281. doi:10.1097/DBP.0000000000000549
“The Role of Pediatric Physical Therapist for Children on the Autism Spectrum.” Center for Autism Research, Center for Autism Research, 2020, https://www.carautismroadmap.org/the-role-of-the-pediatric-physical-therapist-for-children-with-autism-spectrum-disorder/.