Autism Spectrum Disorder & PT

October 19th, 2016

How is it Diagnosed?

If you think your child may have ASD, contact a physician with your concerns. Getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step toward receiving needed intervention. The physician may refer your child to a specialist for an in-depth evaluation, including diagnosis. Specialists who typically diagnose ASD (or decide that an individual does not have ASD) include developmental pediatricians, child neurologists, child psychologists, and child psychiatrists.

No specific tests can diagnose ASD, but health care professionals may use assessment tools, such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, 2nd edition (ADOS-2), and the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) to aid in determining the diagnosis. A child’s behavior and development must meet specific criteria to receive a diagnosis of ASD. Individuals diagnosed with ASD have symptoms that cause significant difficulty in important areas of current functioning. Individuals with ASD show symptoms from early childhood, even if those symptoms are not recognized until the child is older when social demands increase. Parents may recall earlier symptoms and realize that they didn’t know what those symptoms meant at that time.

How Can a Physical Therapist Help?

Physical therapists can work with your child, family, and educational team to help your child:

  • Improve participation in daily routines at home and school
  • Acquire new motor skills
  • Develop better coordination and a more stable posture
  • Improve reciprocal play skills, such as throwing and catching a ball with another person
  • Develop motor imitation skills (seeing another person perform an action and then copying that action)
  • Increase fitness and stamina

A physical therapist will conduct a thorough evaluation of your child that will typically include a health and developmental history and assessment of:

  • Postural strength and control
  • Functional mobility (eg, walking and running)
  • Body and safety awareness
  • Coordination
  • Play skills
  • Interests and motivators
  • Ability to change between different activities
  • Strengths and challenges in making large body movements, such as jumping, hopping, pedaling a tricycle or bicycle, and skipping
  • Participation in daily routines in the home, community, and school


“Autism Spectrum Disorder.” American Physical Therapy Association. American Physical Therapy Association, 31 Oct. 2014. Web. 16 Sept. 2016.