The NIH estimates that as much as 20% of the world population is neurodivergent, an umbrella term for various conditions that cause a person’s brain to process information differently than the population’s majority.
Some neurodivergent conditions that are widely known include ADHD and autism. While the exact causes of these conditions are still up for debate, early diagnosis plays a crucial role in timely intervention and planning.
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In private and school settings, clinicians employ diagnostic tools like the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule™, Second Edition (ADOS®-2) to identify autism as early as 12 months old. Autism Spectrum Disorder often impacts developmental skills, and early diagnosis allows various treatments to assist children with ASD in integrating new skills that will mitigate challenges while in the developmental stages of childhood. Examples of these treatments include:
- Behavioral treatments such as ABA
- Developmental treatments such as speech, physical or occupational therapy
- Social relational treatments focused on relationship development and social skills
Early diagnosis of ADHD significantly influences educational achievement. An ASD diagnosis can occur as early as age 3, while ADHD diagnoses happen around age 7. The age difference in diagnosing these conditions is due to mistaking early signs of ADHD for typical toddler behavior and not being seen as problematic until a child undertakes the increased attention and focus that school demands.
Once diagnosed, implementing educational accommodations can maximize a child’s potential and mitigate challenges often associated with an ADHD diagnosis. These might include IEPs for those involved in special education or a 504 Plan for others. The CDC indicates that both an IEP and a 504 Plan may consist of resources such as:
- Extra time or alternative delivery for testing
- Decreasing distractions in the classroom
- Offering options for assignment completion that targets strengths
- Providing immediate feedback on completed work
- Allowing additional breaks
- Organizational assistance
Co-Occurrence and Co-Morbidity
Neurodivergence frequently involves co-occurrence and co-morbidity, with up to 70% of individuals diagnosed with ASD also experiencing ADHD and nearly half of those with ADHD have dyslexia, as reported by autismspectrumnews.org. Early diagnosis of any neurodivergent condition allows caregivers and clinicians to be vigilant for co-morbid conditions that could complicate treatment.
Additionally, many mental health conditions like anxiety and depression occur alongside neurodivergence.
Many postulate that these mental health issues are most frequent when neurodivergence goes undiagnosed, not allowing people to receive the support, understanding, and self-acceptance they need.
While early diagnosis is optimal, it is important to note that obtaining a diagnosis of a neurodivergent condition as an adult has its benefits. Those suspecting that they may be neurodivergent should consult their healthcare provider. Assessments such as the (CAARS) Conners’ Adult ADHD Rating Scales are available to help diagnose adult ADHD, and even a late diagnosis can provide invaluable insights.
Testing and Assessment With WPS
WPS has been a leader in educational and psychological testing for over 70 years and is a trusted partner in the early and adult assessment of ASD, ADHD, dyslexia, and other neurodivergent conditions. Contact WPS today to meet your assessment needs.