The autistic spectrum: From theory to practice
The autistic spectrum: From theory to practice

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

The autistic spectrum: From theory to practice

2 Identifying and diagnosing autistic conditions

2.1 Principles of diagnosis

The starting point for all systematic work on ASDs, whether in the field of research, therapy or education, is a clear and agreed description of characteristic patterns of symptoms for use in diagnosis. Accurate diagnosis is necessary to ensure shared understanding about the nature and implications of a individual's problem, and serves as the first step in establishing an appropriate basis for care and support for the individual and his or her family.

Underlying the use of systematic descriptions of autism in diagnosis is a framework of assumptions known as the diagnostic approach – an important tool in general medicine as well as in clinical psychology and psychiatry. Research and practice within this framework has provided evidence that particular psychological symptoms consistently group together to form identifiable clusters or syndromes, and has helped to elucidate the underlying causes of some of these clusters. Though the diagnostic approach assumes that syndromes are separable, it also accommodates overlap between their respective symptoms. For instance, lack of responsiveness to human voices could be a symptom of autism or of a hearing impairment. Differential diagnosis between these conditions depends on weighing up the overall pattern of symptoms. This is a necessary pre-requisite for establishing therapeutic needs: a hearing-impaired child has different needs from a child with autism.

Definitions

Diagnosis: The process of placing an individual's pattern of symptoms as reliably as possible within a recognised category, for purposes of identification, research and treatment.

Diagnostic approach: Approach within clinical psychology and psychiatry involving the systematic description and classification of symptom patterns and their use in the identification and treatment of psychological problems.

Differential diagnosis: Use of diagnosis to distinguish between problems or conditions that have similar or overlapping sets of symptoms.

DSE232_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has over 40 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus