ADOS Testing

FOCUS Therapy has been a leading provider of ADOS Testing in Fort Myers since 2019, helping families and professionals ascertain whether the children we assess are on the autism spectrum. Although ADOS testing in Southwest Florida can be conducted for a child of any age, we aim to do so as early as possible so that we can help facilitate early intervention treatment. Children as young as 18 months can undergo ADOS testing.

ADOS stands for “Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule.” Per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ADOS is a semi-structured, comprehensive evaluation that analyzes one's ability to:

  • Communicate.
  • Socially interact.
  • Emotionally regulate.
  • Play.

These skills are then compared to the development of kids who are the same age. It's the second of a three-part process in autism diagnoses, which includes:

  • Developmental screening.
  • ADOS testing.
  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis.

A child diagnosed with ASD is likely eligible for a range of therapy services, including speech therapy, occupational therapy and ABA therapy. The frequency and intensity of therapy will depend on the severity of the child's condition and their age. At FOCUS, we strive for early intervention therapies for children with autism whenever possible.

Does My Child Have Autism? 

Autism is a lifelong condition that according to the CDC has become increasingly common. It is characterized by varying deficits in communication, social and emotional abilities, all of which can impede a person's ability to function in daily life. There's no "cure," and we don't know the cause. There's also no genetic testing that will provide for-sure answers.

What we can say is that ADOS testing is the best diagnostic tool we've got right now. We can also assert with confidence that an early autism diagnosis (before age 5, younger if possible) followed by intensive, early intervention treatment (speech, occupational and behavioral therapy) is associated with the best long-term prognoses for children with autism.

In other words, the sooner a child's autism is identified and diagnosed, the sooner that child can be treated and the better his or her chance to have a happy, healthy, independent life. Treatment is most effective with younger children because their neurological pathways are far more flexible than those of older kids, teens or adults.

Most kids with autism will display some clear signs of it before the age of 2, and this is really the best time to intervene.

For parents who may be questioning whether their child could be on the spectrum, being proactive is the most advisable approach. Waitlists for treatment can be long. The sooner you can get the ball rolling on a diagnosis, the faster you can set the wheels in motion for services that will set them up for long-term success.

While our Fort Myers ADOS testing will provide the best indicator of whether your child is on the spectrum, some signs you can look for include:

  • Not pointing to objects to indicate interest.
  • Speech delays.
  • Difficulty expressing needs with motions or words.
  • Avoiding eye contact.
  • Does not respond to his/her name.
  • Seemingly unaware when people talk, but responsive to other sounds.
  • Preferring not to be cuddled.
  • Rocking, spinning or flapping.
  • Having little-to-no safety or danger awareness.
  • Difficulty relating to others or having no interest in other people.
  • Interest in people with limited understanding of how to talk, play or relate to them.
  • Difficulty understanding others' feelings or talking about their own.
  • Trouble adapting to changes in routine.
  • Repeating the same actions over and over again.
  • Not playing pretend games.
  • Echoing or repeating sounds, words or phrases rather than using what we understand to be typical language.
  • Unusual reactions to sensory stimuli (the way things look, feel, sound or smell).
  • Loss of skills they once had (no longer saying words they once used).

It's important to note that not every one of these will apply to every child. In fact, there is a famous saying by autism researcher Dr. Stephen Shore that we've found to be very true: "If you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism." That is to say: There are some commonalities, but there is no series of characteristics that defines everyone with autism. Your child may love cuddling and has never lost any words they once had - but still be diagnosed with autism.

Our position is: If you have a concern, it is best to have your child promptly assessed by a qualified ADOS testing provider who is committed to gathering the data necessary for pediatric specialists to make an accurate diagnosis. 

How Does ADOS Testing Work?

ADOS testing is part of a larger analysis that looks at whether a child is developing in certain areas at the same rate as children their age typically develop. Certain performance indicators may suggest a higher likelihood of autism.

An autism diagnosis is ultimately made by a pediatric specialist (psychiatrist, psychologist, neurologist, behavior analyst, etc.). That specialist will use the results of the ADOS testing, along with their own observations, in deciding whether an autism diagnosis is appropriate. A child who was born prematurely, with low birth weight or who has a sibling diagnosed with autism could be at higher risk.

A developmental screening is usually the first step. This is usually done with your child's pediatrician. The CDC recommends all children be screened for autism between the ages of 18 and 24 months, but you can (and should) raise concerns on your own if you have them. Parents may be asked to fill out a form. The physician will look at things like how the child speaks, moves, behaves and learns. A delay in one of these areas could indicate a possible issue.

Your child's doctor can then recommend them for ADOS testing, which is a more comprehensive evaluation. ADOS testing is considered the "gold standard" of autism testing, and members of our FOCUS team are trained and skilled at providing it. It consists of a parent questionnaire and then the tester's independent observation of and interaction with the child. The setup allows for this to be both structured and unstructured, with the examiner looking to assess your child in a way that is as natural and stress-free as possible.

It should be noted that ADOS testing does not have a heavy emphasis on cognitive disabilities. They may be observed and noted, but intellectual disabilities aren't a defining feature of autism. As reported by Autism Speaks, about 30 percent of children on the autism spectrum have an intellectual disability, 25 percent are in the borderline range and the rest have IQ scores ranging in the average to above average range.

Further, kids who have marked deficits in social communication but don't otherwise have symptoms meeting the criteria for autism may be evaluated for other conditions, such as a social (pragmatic) communication disorder. These children may still be eligible for treatment.

Lastly, it is critical to point out that an autism diagnosis does not dictate what your child can accomplish in life or how happy they will be. But if they are on the spectrum, giving them the tools they need to thrive as soon as possible is one of the greatest gifts we can offer. ADOS testing is a key step in helping to facilitate this.

Our FOCUS ADOS testing providers welcome any questions you may have about developmental screening, ADOS testing or autism diagnosis. Note that if your child is scheduled for ADOS testing at one of our Fort Myers clinics, you must fill out and submit our ADOS Testing Deposit Agreement form.