The MIGDAS Diagnostic Student Interview:

Tips for connecting with the child during the evaluation session

When I interview a child as part of an autism evaluation, my main focus is on finding ways to invite the child to share his or her unique way of viewing the world. How does one do this reliably, interview after interview, when every child has a singular set of interests, personality, and style of relating to others?

It helps to prepare by learning about the child’s interests beforehand. Over the years I’ve prepared for interviews by learning a fact or two about a staggeringly diverse range of topics: geography, World of Warcraft, String Theory, NASA programs, Adventurequest, and Sponge Bob Squarepants, to name a few.

Ougadougou is the capital of Burkina Faso; it’s good to be a gnome in World of Warcraft, M Theory is even harder to understand than String Theory, the NASA Mars rovers are named Spirit and Opportunity, you need Z-tokens when you talk to Zorback in Adventurequest, and Sponge Bob frequently tells the world “I’m ready!”

Once you’ve learned a fact or two, it’s important to begin the interview by jumping into the child’s area of interest. Children with autism spectrum differences genuinely enjoy the invitation to share their areas of passion. And yet, most of the time they experience being told that they need to focus their attention elsewhere. The interview works best when it begins with the invitation to explore areas of interest instead of pushing them aside.

Keep the conversation going by subtly mirroring the child’s way of speaking and expressing his or her thoughts. A child with autism spectrum differences responds to this parallel experience by showing signs of relaxation and genuine enjoyment.

You’ll find that in addition to experiencing a shared exchange with the child you will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the child’s singular way of interacting with the world. That will in turn lead you to develop individualized and highly effective recommendations to support the child’s skill development in challenging areas.

The MIGDAS Diagnostic Student Interview process provides guidelines to help evaluators set up and participate in successful evaluation interviews with children of all ages. A copy of my “Ten Tips for Evaluation Teams” is available to download from the link below: