As a school psychologist, my favorite type of assessment for autism and developmental delays is definitely a multi-team assessment. Parents can really benefit from more than one professional to notice, watch or observe different aspects of the child’s communication and behavior. These varied observations can provide feedback on the child from various people who have worked with or observed different characteristics or patterns of communication the child may present related to autism. School districts may vary in the team members making a multi-team assessment, but the teams could include teachers (regular or special education), a speech therapist, a school psychologist, a school nurse and possibly a physical or occupational therapist if warranted. The speech therapist, for example can play a vital role in understanding the child’s pragmatic communication and looking at communication in a social or practical way.
There is a real disadvantage of using a single person assessment for autism. The professional making the autism assessment may have had limited experiences working with young children with developmental delays and autism concerns. A single professional may not have adequate training in the field of autism. It is important to note that one professional may be competent and have many experiences working with young children who have autism characteristics, but often a parent doesn’t know for sure about the professional conducting the assessment, making an autism diagnosis or determining an autism educational eligibility. If the one professional is well trained the parent may get some helpful information about the child related to autism, but if the professional is poorly trained and has limited experiences working with children, the information related to autism and developmental delays can be confusing and overwhelming for parents. It is so important to get a variety of viewpoints from professionals and this can easily be done with a multi-team autism assessment.
A multi-team assessment can be much broader than just an assessment in the office. It could include a home observation to see how the child reacts to social situations or communication experiences in a familiar setting. Sometimes preschool observations are used to watch how the child interacts in play experiences with other children in structured or unstructured social situations. The multi-team assessment is truly beneficial in providing parents with lots of detailed information on the child from different angles given by professionals with different perspectives. The multi-team assessment can be used to help parents in future educational planning for the child with possible autism, developmental delays or other disorders and conditions.