Peggy HallidayPeggy Halliday is a board certified associate behavior analyst who has specialized in autism education for the past ten years. She is the Director of Outreach Services at the Virginia Institute of Autism (VIA) in Charlottesville, VA. VIA is a non-profit organization which provides a day school and other resources for families, educators, and other professionals seeking services, training or information about autism and evidence-based interventions. The Institute operates a year-round school for students ages 2-22, a 700-volume library, training workshops, internships for undergraduate and graduate students and teachers, and customized trainings for schools. Peggy supervises a wide range of outreach services, including development and supervision of comprehensive, home-based early intervention programs incorporating naturalistic, incidental, and structured teaching using the principles of applied behavior analysis; training for parents and home instructors; skills assessments, functional behavior assessments and intervention plans, and consultation on Individual Education Plan goals. She has presented trainings and workshops at state and national conferences.
Host: What is involved in an autism screening?
Peggy Halliday: An autism screening begins with a checklist or an assessment. That is just looking at particular behaviors and often begins with questions or interviews to parents that, ask things like is your pointing? Does your child make eye contact with you? Will your child bring you toys and hand them to you, things like that.
If a child is labeled at risk because of answers on an autism checklist or an autism rating scale then he needs to have a more complete evaluation and that s where you see would a specialist who really knows a lot about Autism Spectrum Disorders and is comfortable making that diagnosis.
There you would begin with a complete medical history of the child, the developmental history. You would have a complete history of the family in terms of their medical history and their mental history and then a child is going to be observed by a number of different people in different situations. Maybe observed playing in a room where they could be playing and interacting with other people.
There are may be other professionals that are brought into. They could -- this kind of assessment could involve Speech Pathologist, occupational therapist, psychologist. So, it can be very comprehensive. There are some medical tests that are probably going to be given to rule certain things out. For example, some of the characteristics of autism can mimic hearing impairment. Children with autism may not respond when you call their name, so, you need to rule out any kind of hearing impairment so, a complete audio logical assessment is important. Then there may be other medical genetic tests to rule out others disorders that do actually have genetic markers. So to get that thorough evaluation could be a pretty time consuming and comprehensive process.