Autism Diagnostic Testing Costs

Autism Diagnostic Testing Costs

The cost of autism diagnostic testing can be quite expensive.

Diagnosing autism spectrum disorder is not a simple process. Autism diagnostic testing involves experienced and highly-trained professionals who gather information from you, your child, your primary care provider, and sometimes even daycare provider or school counselors to determine if your child has autism.

Psychiatrists and psychologists typically are trained to diagnose autism, but there are many other professionals that can diagnose autism, such as clinical social workers, speech and language pathologists and many others with expertise in ASD. 

They can help not only diagnose but understand how the symptoms reveal something about the mind, which is very helpful.  

There is no need for a brain scan or any fancy equipment, though there are some screenings that are helpful to identify if there is an underlying issue that could be affecting growth and development, such as stress, trauma, impairment or illness. 

Typically autism is diagnosed through screening tools that include observation, play activities, motor skill assessment and verbal and non-vebal communication evaluations. 

 Some of these screening tools do cost money but the ones that are the most universally used are free; you’re just paying for the cost of the office visit or in some cases multiple visits and the administration fees for that particular practice.  

For an official diagnosis, your child must meet the standards of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the Autism Diagnostic Interview, Revised (ADI-R) or the Autism Diagnostic Observations Scale, Second Edition (ADOS-2). Each test varies in length and depending on the number of visits and hourly rate of the diagnosing specialist the cost of diagnosis varies greatly in range. 

The Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, or ADOS-2, is an autism diagnostic instrument that can be adapted for a broad age range of children. The purpose of this instrument is to evaluate social, communication, and/or behavioral difficulties that your kid may display during the test. The ADOS-2 observation can take last between 60 minutes to 120 minutes and is administered by a clinician, family doctor or any medical professional that receives the training and certification specifically for ADOS-2.  The administering clinician has to purchase training courses and materials, purchase a kit with specific tools and activities used in the observations and assessments with patients and the booklet modules for each patient. The ADOS-2 has 4 modules depending on a child’s age or development levels. 

Through ADOS-2 testing, a clinician will assess your child’s conduct during a set of standardized scenarios, such as whether or not they ask for help when needed or how well they are able to follow a change in subject. The ADOS-2 test may also be paired with the Autism Diagnostic Interview, Revised (ADI-R), to gather additional information. These tests provide a complete view of your child’s current development and potential concerns, allowing the clinician to make an appropriate diagnosis and provide intervention recommendations.

A highly trained clinician can administer the ADI-R to the parent of a 3 or 4 year old suspected of autism in approximately 90 minutes, but may take up to 180 minutes in older children.  There is a cost associated with the purchase of the kit, plus billable administrative hours and clinical application fees a family could be looking at $1200 out of pocket. At this point, most parents/patients have already received an ADOS assessment as well, which more than doubles the cost. 

There is a new diagnostic aid on the horizon called Clarifi,  Clarifi examines RNA expression in saliva. The Clarifi autism saliva test will be available for kids 18 months through 6 years of age and can be administered by your child’s pediatrician or family doctor. Currently Clarifi is not covered by insurance and will cost parents just under $1,000 out of pocket.

In a recent interview with the Orlando Sentinel Silvia Hierro shared her experiences with her autistic son and the families she helps through her nonprofit organization, SOAK. A Florida nonprofit orgnization, SOAK focuses on raising awareness about autism and providing informational resources for families.  

“Many insurance plans do not cover evaluations. We are talking a cost of $700 to $2,000, just for the initial evaluation,” said Silvia.  

And that’s just the beginning costs of autism.  

Findings published in Jama Pediatrics report that the lifetime cost for an individual on the autism spectrum is $2.4 million on average when an intellectual disability is involved, and $1.4 million when it is not. 

It is estimated that 40 percent of people on the autism spectrum also have an intellectual disability.

The organization Autism Speaks estimates that it costs $60,000 on average each year to adequately support someone with an ASD living in the U.S.

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