AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS
Autism in Middle School Children
When a child fails to meet certain age-based expectations, or when their communication skills are overwhelmed by the cognitive demands required, they may benefit from an autism assessment—and we can help.
While most diagnoses of autism are made in the early years of a child’s life, there are some instances where diagnoses are instead discovered in middle school.
Middle school-aged children typically experience a precipitous increase in social demands around sixth grade. This increase can create anxiety and other mood changes in a child that has autism. When a middle schooler’s communication skills are overwhelmed by this increase in demands, or if they are failing to meet other age-level expectations, they may have an autism spectrum disorder—and we can help.
Why is detection important at this age?
In middle school, a child’s self-esteem continues to be formed by a foundation of growth and successes in interpersonal functioning and other arenas. Autism identification and diagnosis affords a child the opportunity to acquire skills and/or accommodations that help prevent their differences in social communication from negatively impacting their self-esteem.
Signs of autism in middle school children
Signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can involve social interaction challenges and restrictive repetitive behaviors. Here are some signs of autism to look out for if your child is in middle school:
- Rigidly follows rules
- Struggles to interpret non-verbal social cues
- Exhibits low mood or anxiety triggered by interpersonal challenges
- Exhibits behavioral outbursts related to challenges around social communication
If you see any of these signs then we recommend contacting our office for an evaluation.
How We Evaluate Your Child for Autism
Our autism services include a full psychiatric evaluation, followed by treatment tailored to your children’s symptoms. We refer our patients for additional evaluation and treatment as needed.
Here’s what you can expect from our team:
1 - A comprehensive psychiatric evaluation
Our evaluation of the middle school-aged child begins with a comprehensive psychiatric interview. Conducted virtually on Zoom, this initial session may last from 60 to 90 minutes, and will include time with caregivers and patient all together as well as time with the patient alone. During our initial session, we will review your child’s developmental history, medical history, and symptom timelines. We will also discuss their social and academic functioning.
2 - Additional testing as recommended by the psychiatrist
Sometimes additional information helps us to confirm the Autism diagnosis and elucidate any optimizable underlying contributors to the child’s symptoms. To that end, in some cases it may be necessary to have additional psychological testing with a testing psychologist to confirm a new diagnosis. For an existing diagnosis, in some cases we will order extensive lab work to assess for any contributory inflammation issues, nutritional deficiencies, or other physical health parameters that can be optimized for total wellness and symptom improvement.
3 - Recommended treatment
If a diagnosis is confirmed, our psychiatrist will be your point person for ensuring that associated symptom targets—for instance anxiety, impulsivity, or depression—are supported with the right medications for your child. Additionally, your psychiatrist may make recommendations for school-based accommodations, social skills training, and/or Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) treatment.
There can be a symphony of inputs that can be modified or optimized in order to improve a patient’s chances of thriving with autism, and it is the job of our child psychiatrist to coordinate and address these inputs as needed for your child.
If your child is exhibiting signs of autism, getting them an evaluation is a critical step forward. If you feel lost or helpless in understanding what your child is going through, we are here to help.