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Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

UCLA assessment protocol sets new standard for evaluating autism spectrum disorders


Autism, the most common of the pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) or autism spectrum disorders (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder that typically appears in the first three years of life and is characterized by impairment in communication and social skills. Autism often can be diagnosed as early as 2 years of age, but is often misdiagnosed because of common misconceptions about autism and the variability of its features and development. The UCLA Child Development and Autism Evaluation Clinic evaluates children beginning at 18 months through adulthood.

UCLA’s clinic draws on the expertise of specialists in child psychology, speech, language therapy and child psychiatry. The team evaluates each child and recommends a treatment plan that incorporates the latest research findings into clinical practice.

The UCLA Autism Program Evaluation Center, which remains at the forefront of many of these research efforts, is a core component of the UCLA Autism Center of Excellence, designated by the National Institutes of Health.

UCLA’s extensive evaluation process includes:

  • Complete psychosocial history
  • Developmental and cognitive assessments
  • Play and behavioral evaluations
  • Emotional and adaptive functioning assessments • Classroom observations, when geographically feasible and appropriate
  • Appraisal of school records and teachers’ reports
  • Speech and language assessment
  • Medication recommendations for psychiatric and behavioral issues
  • Referrals to ongoing research studies

Following the evaluation, the team submits a comprehensive report that includes recommendations for behavioral treatment and educational programs. The report can be presented to the child’s school or to the regional center, which coordinates services and support for individuals with developmental disabilities on behalf of the California Department of Developmental Services. Referrals to UCLA pediatric specialists, including the UCLA Early Childhood Partial Hospitalization Program, can also be provided.

Research seeks answers

In the five-plus decades since autism was first described, a great deal has changed in the diagnosis and treatment of the syndrome. Ongoing research seeks to better understand the behavioral, biological, genetic and neurological basis of autism to develop more effective treatments.

For more information about the UCLA Child Development and Autism Evaluation Clinic, the UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment (CART) and the clinical research programs in which families can participate, visit: http://www.autism.ucla.edu.

Team members

Pegeen Cronin, Ph.D.
Child Psychologist
Clinical Director, UCLA Autism Evaluation Clinic

Daniel H Geschwind M.D., Ph.D.
Director, UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment

Judith Piggot, Ch.B., M.Sc., Ph.D.

How to refer a patient

Referrals for evaluation are accepted from physicians, schools officials, social workers and parents. Parents are asked to complete an appointment packet prior to the evaluation. Call (310) 794-4008 to obtain a packet or visit www.autism.ucla.edu/aec to download the appropriate forms.

Autism Evaluation Clinic
300 UCLA Medical Plaza, Suite 1261
Los Angeles, CA 90095-6967
(310) 794-4008


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