Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center

Font Size

Autism - Exams and Tests

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends screening children for autism during regularly scheduled well-child visits.5 This policy helps doctors identify signs of autism early in its course. Early diagnosis and treatment can help the child reach his or her full potential.

When a developmental delay is recognized in a child, further testing can help a doctor find out whether the problem is related to autism, another autism spectrum disorder, or a condition with similar symptoms, such as language delays or avoidant personality disorder. If your primary care provider does not have specific training or experience in developmental problems, he or she may refer your child to a specialist-such as a developmental pediatrician, a psychiatrist, a speech therapist, a psychologist, or a child psychiatrist-for the additional testing.

  • Behavioral assessments. Various guidelines and questionnaires are used to help a doctor determine the specific type of developmental delay a child has. These include:2
    • Medical history. During the medical history interview, a doctor asks general questions about a child's development, such as whether a child shows parents things by pointing to objects. Young children with autism often point to items they want, but do not point to show parents an item and then check to see if parents are looking at the item being pointed out.
    • Diagnostic guidelines for autism. The American Association of Childhood and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) has established guidelines for diagnosing autism.2 The criteria are designed so a doctor can assess a child's behavior relating to core symptoms of autism.
    • Clinical observations. A doctor may want to observe the developmentally delayed child in different situations. The parents may be asked to interpret whether certain behaviors are usual for the child in those circumstances.
    • Developmental and intelligence tests. The AACAP also recommends that tests be given to evaluate whether a child's developmental delays affect his or her ability to think and make decisions.
  • Physical assessments and laboratory tests. Other tests may be used to determine whether a physical problem may be causing symptoms. These tests include:
    • Physical exam, including head circumference, weight, and height measurements, to determine whether the child has a normal growth pattern.
    • Hearing tests, to determine whether hearing problems may be causing developmental delays, especially those related to social skills and language use.
    • Testing for lead poisoning, especially if a condition called pica (in which a person craves substances that are not food, such as dirt or flecks of old paint) is present. Children with developmental delays usually continue putting items in their mouth after this stage has passed in normally developing children. This practice can result in lead poisoning, which should be identified and treated as soon as possible.

Other lab tests may be done under specific circumstances. These tests include:

  • Chromosomal analysis, which may be done if intellectual disability is present or there is a family history of intellectual disability. For example, fragile X syndrome, which causes a range of below-normal intelligence problems as well as autistic-like behaviors, can be identified with a chromosomal analysis.
  • An electroencephalograph (EEG), which is done if there are symptoms of seizures, such as a history of staring spells or if a person reverts to less mature behavior (developmental regression).
  • MRI, which may be done if there are signs of differences in the structure of the brain.
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

girl at window
Symptoms within the first 2 years of a child’s life.
boy playing a violin
How is this condition similar to autism?
Mother and daughter indoors playing
Play therapy may undo the disorder in at-risk babies.
preschool age girl sitting at desk
What causes this rare form of autism?
High Functioning Autism And Asperge Syndrome
Gluten Free Diet Slideshow
Mother and daughter indoors playing
man on bicycle
girl at window
Mother hugging teenage son
Understanding Rett Syndrome
Home Care Tips

WebMD Special Sections