Recently I was asked to comment on the following question:

“Is there a common framework for assessing students with milder forms of autism that is quantifiable as well as practical?”

Increasingly, psychologists and other evaluators are asked to assess children for milder, high-functioning forms of autism. The children in question are typically in general education classes and do not have cognitive delays. They may have been identified as having a form of Attention Deficit Disorder, or an emotional disorder such as anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive behavior patterns.

Because these individuals are on the milder end of the spectrum they do not show evidence of their differences in all settings. Many times the differences are subtle in their presentation and do not stand out during formal testing situations, including during the administration of Module 3 of the ADOS.

To reliably assess for high functioning forms of autism—Asperger’s Syndrome, high-functioning Autistic Disorder, and verbal children with Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified—it is critical to include both quantitative and qualitative measures.

 A common framework question you are asking when you complete an evaluation for suspected high-functioning autism spectrum disorders is as follows:

 What is the most compelling way to understand and describe the individual’s pattern of differences in development?

The three areas of development in question are:

 Language and Communication

Social Relationships and Emotional Responses

Sensory Use and Interests

Here is a quick reference chart to help distinguish between individuals with various high-functioning forms of autism: Asperger’s Syndrome, Autistic Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).