Preparing for Your Doctor's Appointment When You Think Your Child Has Autism

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • During your child’s regular check-ups, your child’s pediatrician pays attention to developmental milestones and other potential problems. If he or she suspects autism, you will be referred to a specialist for further evaluation. Usually this is a developmental pediatrician, a pediatric neurologist or a psychiatrist.


    This can be scary, even if you have also noticed some developmental delays. Many parents have no idea what to expect during a visit with the specialist. Here are some ideas to help you prepare for your upcoming doctor’s visit.


    What the Doctor Wants to Know


    The new doctor will probably begin by asking you a series of questions. He may ask:

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    • What specific behavior concerns do you have?
    • When did you first notice this behaviors?
    • How have, if at all, these behaviors changed over time?
    • Is there any situations/actions that cause these behaviors to worsen? to improve?
    • When did your child begin talking? When did your child first start crawling? Walking?
    • How does your child interact with siblings or other children?

    In addition to questions specific to your child, the doctor will want to know about any family history of autism, anxiety or mental illness, language delays or other significant illnesses. 


    How You Can Prepare


    A visit to a pediatric specialist can be overwhelming. Beforehand, you may know exactly what you want to say and what questions you want to ask. But once you get to the doctor’s office and must deal with your own emotions as well as your child’s, it is easy to forget. Preparing in advance can help you make sure you remember.


    What you want to bring:

    • Your child’s medical and immunization records including past illnesses and surgeries
    • A list of any medications your child is taking
    • Written notes of behaviors and changes in behaviors you, or other caregivers - including teachers, have noticed
    • Notes from any other medical professionals who have seen or treated your child
    • List of developmental milestones and the age your child reached each one
    • Written notes on how your child interacts and plays with other children, including siblings
    • Description of any unusual movements or repetitive behaviors
    • Written notes on your child’s sleeping and eating patterns


    Some parents will video tape their child while playing or interacting with others or will tape unusual or repetitive movements so the doctor can better understand how the child behaves in more comfortable settings. 


    If you are feeling nervous, overwhelmed or worried that it will be difficult to pay attention to what the doctor is saying because of your child’s behavior, ask a family member or friend to come along. This not only is good for emotional support, it provides you with an additional set of ears. You can ask your family member to take notes to help you remember  what was said later. 


    What Happens Next


    The doctor may not provide you with a diagnosis at the initial visit. He may want to have further evaluations completed or may want to review all the notes and videotapes before making a diagnosis. Even so, you want to be prepared with questions about ASD and treatment options. Some of the questions to ask include:

    • Why do you think my child has (or doesn’t have) autism? How severe is it?
    • What changes and behaviors should I expect from my child in the future?
    • What types of therapies do you suggest (occupational, physical, speech, etc) What type of medical care do you expect my child to need?
    • What types of specialized programs are available in this area?
    • What is my child’s prognosis?
    • Are there alternative treatments, such as diet, that will help?
    • What can I do at home to help my child?
    • What should I tell my child’s school? 

    You may want to take notes as the doctor is talking so you can remember to ask about anything you didn’t understand. 

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    “Initial Doctor’s Appointment, 2008, Aug 17, Marlene Gundlach, The Autism Institute


    “Preparing for Your Child’s Evaluation,” Date Unknown, Dr. Jacqueline Amata, Autism Support Network 

Published On: December 04, 2012