Few books on the assessment of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) exist. This comprehensive volume offers professionals in the field a guide to understanding best practices associated with evaluating this complex disorder.

Goldstein and Ozonoff begin with a brief history of autism, noting reports of its existence as far back as the 18th century. Their account of the disorder is more comprehensive than most, as it includes an historical perspective of the other disorders that comprise the spectrum, which is often absent in the literature. Following a descriptive overview of autism which highlights the core and associated features of the disorder, DSM-IV-TR diagnostic criteria are presented for all five of the disorders currently included on the autism spectrum. Inclusion of case studies at the close of this chapter provides the reader with context for understanding challenges inherent in assessing ASD (Mash & Wolfe, 2008).

The chapter on epidemiology is dense, but includes important information on prevalence and the impact that changing diagnostic criteria have on these rates. Authors discuss possible reasons for the rise in reported prevalence of ASD, noting which theories have not been supported by empirical evidence. Wing and Potter provide compelling data that refutes the link between the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and autism.

The Naglieri and Chambers' chapter on psychometric issues and current scales provides a concise, yet thorough, explanation of reliability and validity, in general, as well as specific information that is useful to clinicians and researchers on the development of scales used to assess behaviors associated with ASD. The chapter concludes with practical information on the description, psychometric qualities, and standardization samples of measures commonly used in the assessment of ASD.

Coverage of subtyping by Klin begins with a brief discussion of problems with the current classification system. The author goes on to underscore the need for further standardization of diagnostic procedures across settings, as well as in different countries and cultures. Highlighted in this chapter are considerations for subtyping derived from emerging clinical and research questions in the field, which offer the reader an insightful view of a little known topic.

Shea and Mesibov provide useful information on age-related issues in the assessment of ASD for both practice and research. Given the need for valid evaluations of individuals across the age range, organizing assessment information into developmental stages is a clear strength of this chapter. Including age-based tools for diagnostic assessment assists the reader in navigating the complexities of this process, from screening instruments for 18–24-month-olds to self-report measures for higher functioning adults. Another strong point is the discussion of specific age-related aspects of assessing skills in individuals with ASD, as these tend to be more variable over time than diagnosis (Cohen & Volkmar, 1997).

Using a developmental framework to examine social behavior in children, adolescents, and adults with ASD, the authors describe specific measures for identifying and diagnosing impairments in this area. A helpful feature of this chapter is inclusion of instruments that vary by format, including parental report, interview, observation, and professional evaluation. Tools for individuals with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism are also presented. Gamliel and Yirmiya conclude the chapter by discussing the social relationships that children with ASD have with their caregivers and peers and by exploring the relationship between theory of mind deficits and social and communication impairments.

The chapter by Paul and Wilson on assessing domains of communication includes guidelines for evaluating early communication skills (prelinguistic) and spoken language in children with ASD. Also included in the chapter are strategies for assessing communication in higher-functioning individuals, as well as in nonverbal children. Interspersed throughout this chapter are valuable tables and figures which provide information on standardized instruments as well as coding schemes for assessing specific language deficits. Highlighting the importance of multicultural considerations in assessing communicative skills underscores the need for researchers and clinicians to consider the impact of cultural differences during assessment and treatment of ASD.

Klinger, O'Kelley, and Mussey provide guidelines for determining which assessments for intelligence and adaptive functioning may be appropriate when evaluating an individual with ASD. Since a standardized protocol does not exist for assessing either of these domains in people with this disorder, information provided in this chapter is useful for both practice and research. A nice feature of this chapter is the inclusion of a case study that demonstrates how information derived from assessments can be used to make recommendations for interventions at home and in school.

Comprehensive coverage of the neuropsychological process in relation to ASD is provided by Corbett, Carmean, and Fein. The contributors present current and detailed information on standardized measures for assessing core areas of functioning, including cognitive, adaptive, sensory, motor, executive, and academic domains. Particularly useful to professionals is the normative sample data presented for each tool, as well as the guide to treatment recommendations based on neuropsychological findings.

Although often overlooked, comorbid psychiatric conditions in ASD can adversely affect functioning. For this reason, the chapter by Deprey and Ozonoff is noteworthy. Following a discussion of challenges clinicians encounter in assessing other psychological conditions in ASD, the authors provide an overview of specific disorders that commonly occur with ASD, noting prevalence rates, differential diagnosis, and differences in symptom expression. The chapter concludes with a section on broad-based instruments, as well as specific tools, which can be helpful in the assessment of comorbid conditions.

Using a conceptual and practical framework, Hogan and Marcus focus on how gathering assessment data can assist in developing meaningful interventions. They also provide a brief overview of informal assessment, noting advantages of this method in developing individualized education plans.

Since most professionals involved in assessing young persons with ASD will be involved either directly or indirectly with the school system, inclusion of a chapter on evaluation practices in educational settings is especially useful. Also helpful to researchers and clinicians is the discussion of alternative methods for the assessment of ASD (National Research Council, 2001).

Overall, the book achieves its goal of building a bridge from science to clinical practice by emphasizing valid and reliable methods for assessing this complex group of disorders. Written in straightforward, user-friendly language, the book is a valuable resource for neuropsychologists and other professionals interested in the assessment of ASD. An added feature is the inclusion of tables, figures, and case studies throughout the volume.

References

Cohen
D. J.
Volkmar
F. R.
Handbook of autism and pervasive developmental disorders
 , 
1997
2nd ed.
New York
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Mash
E. J.
Wolfe
D. A.
Autism spectrum disorders and childhood-onset schizophrenia
Abnormal child psychology
 , 
2008
4th ed
Belmont, CA
Wadsworth
(pg. 
299
-
328
)
National Research Council
Educating children with autism
 , 
2001
Washington, DC
National Academy Press