Testing for Asperger’s Syndrome

Your doctor might suggest that your child take a test to see if he or she has symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome.

Some assessments are designed for children, while others are specifically created for adults.

Asperger’s is no longer considered its own syndrome in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Because doctors are now instructed to diagnose Asperger’s under the broad category of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), some may not screen for Asperger’s-specific symptoms.

Still, testing tools may help clinicians better evaluate behavior, personality, language skills, IQ, mental health, and more in people with Asperger’s. And some of the tests may overlap with measures that help identify classic autism.

Tools to Assess Children for Asperger’s

There’s not one specific test to diagnose Asperger’s, but many are used to analyze and assess the condition. Some of these include:

  • Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) This widely-used assessment tool helps identify children with an autism spectrum disorder and determine the severity of their condition. It includes 15 items that evaluate social interaction, emotion regulation, thinking skills, ability to adapt, and more. Each item is rated on a scale of one to four. It’s a highly sensitive test for kids ages 2 and older, but some studies have shown that CARS may over-diagnose young children as having autism. (1)
  • Gilliam Autism Rating Scale (GADS) This is especially helpful in distinguishing between autism, Asperger’s, and other behavioral disorders. It’s appropriate to use with individuals between ages 3 and 22. It takes about 5 to 10 minutes and can be completed by a parent, teacher, or health professional. (2)
  • Asperger Syndrome Diagnostic Scale (ASDS) The ASDS evaluation looks at specific behaviors associated with Asperger’s, documents progress, and suggests goals for change. It’s used for assessing children and adolescents and can be completed in 15 minutes by anyone who knows the child well. (3)
  • Autism Spectrum Rating Scales (ASRS) This evaluation detects symptoms and behaviors of autism spectrum disorders in kids ages 2 to 18. It takes about 20 minutes to complete and is the first test that compares the child with a national sample of children with autism spectrum disorders. (4)
  • Social Responsiveness Scale This test is commonly used to distinguish autism spectrum disorders from other psychiatric conditions. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to complete and is suitable for individuals ages 4 to 18. (5)

Tools to Assess Adults for Asperger’s

Some common evaluations used to analyze Asperger’s in adults include:

  • Ritvo Autism Asperger Diagnostic Scale (RAADS) This test includes 80 questions that can help identify adults who show symptoms of Asperger’s. RAADS analyzes language, social interactions, sensory-motor skills, interests, and more. A mental health professional scores and analyzes the results. (6)
  • Asperger’s Quotient Test (AQT) This 50-question online test measures symptoms of Asperger’s in adults. It’s not used to make a formal diagnosis but rather to give you a rough idea of whether you have certain symptoms that might be characteristic of Asperger’s. (7)
  • Autism Diagnostic Interview (ADI) With this test, a psychologist or other professional interviews a person, asking questions about language, communication, social interaction, interests, and other behaviors. It can be used for both children and adults. (8)

Genetic Testing to Spot Autism-Linked Mutations

Genetic testing can spot changes in a person’s DNA that are associated with specific conditions. For instance, genetic disorders such as Rett syndrome or Fragile X syndrome are linked to autism spectrum disorders. Other genetic variability may also play a role.

Your doctor might recommend genetic tests, such as chromosomal microarray analysis (CMA) or whole-exome sequencing (WES). One expert says such testing may uncover an identifiable genetic cause for an autism spectrum disorder in 15 to 30 percent of children who have already been diagnosed. (9) However, genetic testing will not give answers to everyone.

Other Common Tests Used to Assess Asperger’s

Your doctor will likely perform a variety of other tests to evaluate you. These might include:

  • A physical, psychological, and/or neurological exam
  • Hearing, speech, or language tests
  • An IQ and/or personality test
  • An electroencephalography (EEG), a test that looks at electrical activity in the brain
  • A brain scan, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Standard Developmental Screening for Children

Even if your child doesn’t show any symptoms of an autism spectrum disorder, your primary care doctor or pediatrician will likely screen for developmental delays during routine visits.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all children be screened for developmental delays and disabilities during their well-check visits at:

  • 9 months
  • 18 months
  • 30 months

Additionally, all toddlers should be screened specifically for autism spectrum disorders at their 18-month and 24-month well-check visits. (10)

If your child shows signs of an autism spectrum disorder during a standard evaluation, you’ll likely be referred to a specialist for further testing.

RELATED: 10 Things Your Doctor Won’t Tell You About an MRI

Making a Diagnosis

Your healthcare provider will probably use a variety of tools and tests to assess your condition.

Additionally, most professionals refer to the criteria listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) DSM-5 to make an official diagnosis (or the International Classification of Diseases, ICD-11, in many countries outside the United States).

The newest version of the manual states that an individual with Asperger’s should be given a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Those who have deficits in social communication, but no other categories, should be evaluated for social (pragmatic) communication disorder. (11)

Many parents may find it frustrating that the APA no longer recognizes Asperger’s as a separate disorder, but this change doesn’t mean your child can’t receive effective treatment for his or her condition.

Why Testing Is Important to Your Child

Getting an ASD diagnosis related to Asperger’s can be a challenging ordeal. Kids with Asperger’s are often misdiagnosed as having other conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Some are overlooked, altogether.

That’s why testing tools are vital for helping doctors make an accurate analysis. They can give professionals a clear and in-depth look at your child’s condition.

An accurate diagnosis can ensure kids receive prompt and helpful treatment. Research shows therapies that involve early intervention can help improve many symptoms of autism spectrum disorders. (12)

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