PEAK Exceptional Services offers comprehensive, neurodiversity-affirmative, strengths-based autism assessment services. Our providers specialize in assessing and understanding neurodivergent individuals, including gifted and twice-exceptional students, and exploring the subtle differences and similarities between autism, possible giftedness, and other differences in brain style are an integral part of our testing services.
Every assessment at PEAK begins with a comprehensive parent interview. We gather detailed developmental, medical, social, and educational background information through questionnaires and the interview process. This helps us to determine the best course of action for an assessment of your child. Our goal is to only provide the testing services that are absolutely necessary to answer your questions about your child.
Bright and Quirky Kids
Your child was reciting the alphabet before the age of two, could count to 100 not long after that, and they instantly notice when a new picture is added to the entryway or when you wear your hair differently. Yet, they are painfully awkward when interacting with same age peers – often preferring solitary activities over group play. They can tell you the names and key characteristics of every dinosaur that roamed the earth, but doesn’t remember the neighbor child’s name, and doesn’t particularly care.
Gifted or Autistic? Or Is It Both?
If your child seems bright, learns new information quickly, yet shows very restricted interests and/or is often described as “very quirky,” then you may be wondering about this very question. Perhaps your physician or a teacher has recommended that your child be assessed for Autism (commonly referred to as “Autism Spectrum Disorder” or “ASD”). In fact your child may have already been assessed for autism and told they didn’t “meet the cutoff” or criteria.
The reality is that autism is a form of neurodivergence and many autistic individuals have a wide range of characteristics, strengths, and differences; and they do not neatly “fit” into the rigid boxes that some diagnostic systems use. Sometimes, these traits are signals of brain styles that are consistent with the “Autism Spectrum” (often still referred to as Asperger’s Disorder, which is an outdated term). Other times, these simply reflect some of the intensities (or overexcitabilities) that are common among gifted children.
The reality is that there are many overlapping qualities of giftedness and autism. Unfortunately, many healthcare professionals do not understand key differences between the two and this can result in misdiagnosis, or a missed diagnosis. In addition, the characteristics of autism can mask giftedness, while giftedness can mask autism. Sometimes, giftedness and autism occur together. Teasing out the differences is tricky business, and we’re here to help!
Characteristics and Signs of Autism
If your child demonstrates a number of the following characteristics, a formal assessment may be beneficial to determine their unique needs:
- Passionate, restricted, and specific interests
- Unusual sensitivity to sensory input (very strong reactions to certain sounds, smells, tastes, touch, etc.)
- May have delayed language development (late in beginning to speak)
- Conversation is often limited to specific interests
- Limited eye contact and facial expressions
- Thrives on routine and predictability and may have difficulty dealing with changes in routine
- Prefer to play alone or only wants to do preferred play activities with others
- Difficulties expressing an understanding other people’s feelings
- Trouble being flexible in play or social activities
- Unusual or repetitive body movements or mannerisms
- Limited interest in social interactions
- Difficulties with organization, focus, and attention
Autistic individuals or people with related neurodevelopmental differences are very diverse may only have a few key signs of neurodivergence. An in-depth assessment is the best way to understand their strengths and challenges.
Understanding Autism as a Form of Neurodiversity
Autism is a form of neurodivergence. It is a difference in neurological development that affects how a person processes information and interacts with their environment. Each autistic individual is unique, and their “brain style” may affect them differently in certain situations, or at different times. This means that the characteristics associated with an autistic brain style can range from having a mild (but significant) impact on the development of certain areas of functioning, to having a very significant impact on development and adaptive functioning.
All autistic individuals have differences (to some extent) with language and communication, social relationships, emotional responses, and sensory interests. Additionally, ALL autistic people have significant strengths that need to be nurtured and celebrated. The key to distinguishing autistic individuals from non-autistic individuals is using an individualized, holistic framework for understanding key differences in development.
Comprehensive Neurodevelopmental Assessment Includes:
- In-depth exploration of developmental and medical history
- Standardized diagnostic interviews and assessments of differences and characteristics common among autistic people
- Informal and structured interactions and behavioral observations
- Cognitive (IQ) testing
- Formal screening measures and observation of autism symptoms
- Academic achievement testing, when indicated
- Standardized behavioral checklists
- Social, emotional, and behavioral assessments
- Adaptive functioning assessment
- Input from caregivers and teachers
Details on the Autism Testing Process
If your child has not had a formal cognitive assessment completed within the past year, the assessment process will include an IQ test. This helps to ensure that we have a thorough and accurate understanding of your child’s abilities, strengths, and challenges. We typically use the Wechsler IQ tests (WPPSI-IV, WISC-V, or WAIS-IV – depending on your child’s age), which are considered the “gold standard” of intellectual abilities tests. However, sometimes other measures may be used.
We use a variety of interview, screening, and assessment measures to explore the possible presence of autism spectrum disorders. Many of these situations are complex and it is important to look at the big picture, examining strengths, challenges, and various factors that could be contributing to a child’s symptoms.
Other neuropsychological, developmental, psychological, and academic testing instruments will be administered, based on each individual situation. Our providers will discuss the process with you each step of the way. Once all testing has been completed, we get to work on scoring and interpreting the assessments. A few weeks later, we meet with you to discuss the results and recommendations for a treatment plan, including possible school accommodations.
If You’re Ready To Get Started, Give Us a Call!
- Call us at 720-377-3250, ext. 1 to schedule an appointment for a Parent Interview to get started.
- Send us an email and we’ll get back to you within one business day with information on next steps.
- Please review important information on our Scheduling Page to understand how scheduling works.