Making a Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder - Reflections

What are the strengths of this child and family??


It is always important to explore the strengths of a child with autism spectrum disorder or developmental delay. Parents and clinicians may become so focused on the deficits, and in some cases the behavioral issues that a child is having, that they aren’t able to notice what a child does well.

  • By asking a family about what a child is good at, and what their positive traits are, one is able to frame recommendations for intervention and treatment in the context of these strengths.
  • Asking about what a child likes can be used when discussing next steps.
  • Finally, in addition to exploring the strengths of the child, it is helpful to think about the strengths of the family and how these can be used when discussing options and next steps for treatment.

It is always helpful for clinicians to take the time to note changes and improvements in functioning and positive features of the child, and narrate these observations to parents.

Billy’s Strengths
A little boy smiling

Some strengths shown by Billy and his family include:

  • He has made progress since he began to receive early intervention services.
  • He is beginning to use language functionally.
  • He is described by his mother as a sweet and loving boy.
  • He is pairing language and gesture when he points to the ball and vocalizes.
  • He displays some capacity for shared pleasure when the examiner throws him the ball and he laughs and briefly makes eye contact.

How might you have approached this differently if the family had a different cultural background?

It is important for clinicians to understand how different child-rearing practices and cultural norms may influence key decisions that parents make regarding their child obtaining evaluations and treatment, future planning, and acceptance of the child’s diagnosis. Clinicians can approach parents openly and honestly by asking them about their unique style of parenting and how the information or recommendations provided are received.

In reflecting on this case, consider:

  • What cultural beliefs or practices should be considered when gathering or sharing information?
  • How would you open a discussion about respecting family culture?
  • How might additional information about the family change your approach?
  • In what ways might your approach change when working with families that have limited English proficiency?

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