Guide To Autism Testing and Diagnosis Services In Michigan

A Guide To Getting Autism Testing, Diagnosis, and Services In Michigan

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Navigating the challenging waters of autism diagnosis and support services can be an overwhelming journey for parents and caregivers. From initial concerns to comprehensive evaluations and therapy interventions, the pathway is filled with uncertainty and an array of medical jargon. This article aims to simplify and explain the process of autism testing, diagnosis, and services available in Michigan. Whether you are a parent seeking help for your child or an adult seeking clarity about your own possible diagnosis, this comprehensive guide will lead you to the resources and support you need. Armed with this information, you can turn the daunting into the doable, embarking on the journey towards understanding and management of autism with confidence and direction.

What To Do When You Suspect Autism

If you suspect that you or your child may have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), it’s important to take certain steps to ensure that you are getting the necessary support and treatment. Here are the steps you should consider:

1. Initial Observations and Documentation: Your journey may start when you or someone close to you notices signs and symptoms of autism. This could be difficulty with social interactions, communication, or repetitive behaviors. It’s important to document these signs for further discussions with professionals.

2. Schedule an Appointment with a Healthcare Provider: The first point of contact should be your primary healthcare provider. This could be a pediatrician in the case of a child, or your general physician if it’s for an adult. During this appointment, share your concerns and observations. The physician may perform an initial screening and can then refer you to an autism assessment specialist if necessary.

3. Seek Evaluation from a Specialist: The healthcare provider may refer you to a specialist for a more comprehensive evaluation. Specialists who can diagnose autism include developmental pediatricians, child psychologists, child psychiatrists, and neuropsychologists. These professionals use various assessment tools for diagnosing autism, such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) and the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R).

4. Undergo a Comprehensive Assessment: This assessment typically involves direct observation and interaction with the individual, as well as interviews with parents or caregivers. It may also include cognitive and language testing. These assessments help the professional understand the individual’s strengths and challenges, leading to a more accurate diagnosis.

5. Receive a Diagnosis: After the assessment, the specialist will discuss the results and any diagnosis with you. If an ASD diagnosis is confirmed, it can be an emotional moment. Take the time you need to process the information. Ask any questions you may have, and make sure you understand the diagnosis and what it means for the future.

6. Explore Treatment Options: If diagnosed with autism, the next step is to consider treatment options. This will often involve a multidisciplinary approach, including behavioral interventions, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, and social skills training. Each individual’s treatment plan will be unique to their specific needs.

7. Secure Educational Support: If the diagnosis is for a child, contact your local school district to arrange for an evaluation and development of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan, if applicable. These programs provide services and accommodations to support your child’s learning.

8. Seek Support: Reach out to local and online communities for support and guidance. Connecting with other families dealing with similar challenges can provide emotional support, practical advice, and resources.

Remember, it’s essential to take action as soon as possible if you suspect autism. Early intervention can significantly improve outcomes for individuals with autism. Autism is a lifelong condition, but with the right support and treatment, individuals with autism can lead fulfilling and meaningful lives.

Signs of Autism Across Various Age Groups

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is characterized by a wide range of symptoms that can vary significantly in severity and presentation from one person to another. Importantly, ASD is a developmental disorder, meaning the symptoms may evolve and change over time as individuals grow and develop.

Here is an overview of some common signs and traits of autism across various age groups:


  1. Social Challenges: Children with autism often have difficulty with social interaction. This can include reduced eye contact, lack of response to their name, or difficulty understanding feelings and perspectives of others.

  2. Communication Difficulties: They may delay in—or lack of—spoken language, repeat phrases (echolalia), or have an unusual tone of voice. Non-verbal communication may also be challenging, such as understanding and using gestures, facial expressions, or body language.

  3. Repetitive and Restrictive Behaviors: Children might engage in repetitive movements (like hand-flapping, rocking, or spinning), insist on routines, or have intense interests in specific topics. They might also have unusual responses to sensory input, such as sensitivities to textures, lights, or sounds.


  1. Continued Social and Communication Challenges: Teens with autism often continue to struggle with more complex social situations. They might misinterpret social cues, struggle with understanding sarcasm, or find it hard to engage in conversations or make friends.

  2. Repetitive and Restrictive Behaviors: The persistence of routines, rituals, and interest areas often continue into adolescence. However, the specific nature of these might change over time (e.g., interests may shift to more age-appropriate topics).

  3. Emotional and Behavioral Issues: The adolescent period can exacerbate emotional and behavioral challenges. Teens with autism might have increased anxiety, difficulty managing emotions, or struggle with transitions and changes.


  1. Persistent Social and Communication Challenges: Adults with autism continue to face difficulties in social and communication areas, though many develop strategies or coping mechanisms to manage these challenges. Some adults might struggle with maintaining relationships or employment due to these difficulties.

  2. Repetitive and Restrictive Behaviors: As with earlier stages, adults may also have routines, rituals, or specific interest areas.

  3. Co-occurring Mental Health Issues: Adults with ASD are at higher risk for a range of mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

  4. Executive Functioning Challenges: Many adults with autism might struggle with skills like organization, planning, and flexibility, which can impact various areas of life, from work to independent living.

It’s important to note that autism is a spectrum, and these symptoms can vary widely in severity and presentation. Some individuals might be able to live independently and have successful careers, while others might require more substantial support in their daily lives. Additionally, many individuals with autism also have strengths in areas like attention to detail, memory, or in-depth knowledge about specific interest areas. As such, understanding and supporting each individual’s unique profile is critical.

Levels of Autism Explained

In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association defined three levels of autism in the Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5):

Level 1 (“Requiring Support”): Individuals at this level can usually communicate verbally and manage daily life with some degree of independence, but they may struggle with flexible behavior, social situations, and communication. They might find it challenging to initiate social interactions and may appear to have decreased interest in social engagement.

Level 2 (“Requiring Substantial Support”): Individuals at this level have more marked difficulties with verbal and nonverbal social communication. This can often lead to a limited initiation of social interactions and a reduced or abnormal response to social overtures from others. Their behaviors may change significantly with alterations in their environment.

Level 3 (“Requiring Very Substantial Support”): Individuals at this level have severe difficulties in verbal and nonverbal communication. Their behaviors may be highly restrictive and repetitive, causing significant interference in multiple areas of life. They often require intensive support and supervision for daily functioning.

It’s important to remember that these are broad categories and an individual’s needs and abilities may change over time or vary from one situation to another. These levels help clinicians, educators, and parents better understand and support individuals with ASD.

Preparing For An Autism Evaluation

Preparing for an autism evaluation can feel overwhelming, but proper preparation can make the process smoother and more beneficial. Here are some steps that a parent or caregiver can take:

1. Gather Information:

  • Medical Records: Compile a thorough set of medical records, including any previous assessments or screenings, and the results of vision and hearing tests. Also include any information on prenatal and birth history, as well as development milestones.

  • School Records: If the child is in school or daycare, include any relevant information from teachers or other professionals who work with your child. This could include report cards, behavior reports, or Individualized Education Plans (IEPs).

  • Behavior Observations: Prepare a list of behaviors that have concerned you. Try to include when the behavior usually happens, what triggers it, and how long it lasts. It’s also beneficial to note any specific examples of social, communication, or behavioral challenges.

2. Understand the Evaluation Process:

A comprehensive autism evaluation usually includes several types of assessments, such as a developmental history, direct observation, and structured testing. Familiarize yourself with these procedures to understand what will be involved, and how best to prepare your child.

3. Prepare Your Child:

Talk to your child about the evaluation in a way that they can understand. For example, you might say, “We are going to visit a doctor who likes to learn about how kids play and learn.” Keep the conversation positive and stress-free.

4. Logistics and Comfort:

Make sure your child is well-rested and fed on the day of the evaluation. The process can be lengthy, so consider bringing snacks, drinks, and comfort items (like a favorite toy or blanket).

5. Questions to Ask:

Prepare a list of questions to ask during the evaluation. This could include questions about the evaluation process, what the results mean, potential treatments, and next steps.

6. Emotional Preparation:

Remember to also take care of yourself. Reach out to support networks, whether they be family, friends, or autism support groups. It’s normal to have a wide range of emotions during this process, and support can make a big difference.

Lastly, remember that the goal of an autism evaluation is to understand your child’s unique strengths and challenges. It is a step towards getting the resources to help your child thrive.

What Happens During An Intake Appointment For An Autism Evaluation

A developmental history is an interview with you about your child’s development. The purpose of this interview is to help determine if there are any delays in developmental milestones and/or behavior concerns that may indicate autism.

You can prepare for this interview by jotting down notes about when your child first started walking, talking, etc., as well as any unique behaviors they may have displayed over time. In addition, looking through old photos can help trigger memories of important milestones in their lives (such as visiting Disney World). It’s also helpful to bring along toys that were favorites throughout childhood so that the doctor can observe how they interact with them now (for example: playing peekaboo). If possible, it would be beneficial if parents could attend these interviews together so that they can provide information about how their child has developed over time.

It’s not uncommon for doctors to ask questions such as “What kind of language does your child use?” or “Does he/she understand common words like ‘no’?” These questions will give them insight into whether there are delays in communication skills. Other common behavioral observations include eye contact and social engagement—do children look directly at people when speaking? Is it hard for him/her to engage with others?

What To Expect During Your In-person Autism Assessment

A diagnostic assessment, or screening test, will be performed to determine whether your child has autism or other behavioral disorders. The results of the diagnostic assessment may lead you and your child to receive additional testing (an evaluation) from a specialist.

Evaluations are often conducted by trained clinicians. These professionals can provide recommendations for any treatment that might be needed depending on their findings in the evaluations. In addition to determining whether someone has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), other assessments may also be used to diagnose other mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders and depression.

Where To Find A Provider To Get Tested For Autism

Autism testing can be completed by a variety of professionals, including child psychologists, developmental pediatricians, and other specialists who are trained in diagnosing autism and other developmental disorders. You can start by speaking with your child’s pediatrician or primary care provider, who can assess your child’s development and refer you to a specialist for further evaluation.

During the evaluation, the specialist will observe your child’s behavior and communication skills, and may ask you questions about your child’s development and medical history. They may also administer developmental tests and assessments to assess your child’s cognitive, language, and social skills.

It is also important to remember that autism is a complex disorder and no two individuals with autism are exactly alike. Therefore, it is important to work with a team of professionals who are knowledgeable about autism and can help you develop an appropriate treatment plan for your child’s unique needs.

Tools Specialists Use To Assess For Autism

Autism assessment involves a variety of tools and methods to provide a comprehensive understanding of an individual’s functioning and to determine whether the symptoms meet the criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Here are some of the main tools and instruments that specialists might use during an autism assessment:

  1. Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Second Edition (ADOS-2): This is an interactive assessment that provides an opportunity to observe the social, communication, and play behaviors often impacted by ASD. The ADOS-2 involves a series of structured and semi-structured tasks designed to mimic a social interaction, and there are different modules to suit different age groups and language levels.

  2. Autism Diagnostic Interview – Revised (ADI-R): This is a structured interview used with parents or caregivers to gather information about the individual’s developmental history and current behavior. It focuses on three main areas: language and communication, reciprocal social interactions, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped behaviors and interests.

  3. Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ): This is a parent-report screening measure used to identify whether a child may have ASD.

  4. Childhood Autism Rating Scale, Second Edition (CARS2): This rating scale helps distinguish children with autism from those with developmental disabilities. It’s used to observe and objectively rate behaviors in 15 functional areas, such as relating to people, emotional response, and use of body and object use.

  5. Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS): This is a questionnaire completed by parents or teachers that measures the severity of autism symptoms in relation to social awareness, social cognition, social communication, social motivation, and restricted interests and repetitive behavior.

  6. Developmental, Dimensional, and Diagnostic Interview (3Di): This is a computerized, parent-report interview that provides a detailed assessment of the core features of ASD.

These are not the only tools used, and each clinician will have their own preferred methods. The choice of tool will often depend on the individual being assessed – their age, developmental level, and specific needs. Assessments are often supplemented by other measures to evaluate language skills, motor skills, cognitive levels, and any co-occurring mental health conditions.

The main goal of these assessments is to capture a detailed picture of the individual’s unique profile, which can guide diagnosis and inform intervention planning.

Do I Need An Autism Diagnosis To Get Services Approved By My Insurance Company In Michigan?

Yes. While most insurance companies require an official diagnosis for your child through an AAEC, there is an alternate path to get services granted. As long as the autism assessment is performed by a qualified provider with a qualified testing protocol such as the ADOS-2, your carrier will grant you a bridge authorization so you can get services started right away without losing any more precious time.

Schedule an Autism Assessment

Bright Pine Behavioral Health in Michigan offers a comprehensive range of autism testing services for children, teens, and adults. They’re dedicated to supporting those who suspect a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in themselves or their dependents, offering a clear path from initial suspicion to diagnosis and subsequent treatment. This process involves careful observation, medical consultations, evaluations by specialists, a comprehensive assessment, diagnosis, treatment planning, educational support, and community assistance. Bright Pine Behavioral Health’s autism services also provide detailed insights into ASD signs across different age groups, as well as assistance in preparing for an autism evaluation. With their deep understanding of ASD and its manifestation across different age groups, Bright Pine Behavioral Health is an excellent resource for autism diagnosis and treatment in Michigan. Their approach utilizes various diagnostic tools to ensure accurate results, which can potentially help individuals secure services approved by insurance companies.

Local Areas Served For Autism Testing Services