Testing for Autism . . . How It’s Done


We decided to go to New York to have our son tested formally for autism at The McCarton Center. After doing every other test we could possibly think of, this was the last one we knew we had to do. If you have been following along with our journey, we left off deciding between two Nashville facilities and one New York option. New York was a two day process with testing split between two administrators and an interview with the head of the McCarton Center, Dr. Cecelia McCarton. She is amongst the nation’s leaders in detecting and providing a plan for developmental disorders in children.

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The Testing

The center was huge (8,000 sqft), the staff was kind, and the tests were nerve-wracking. We all sat in a room together with the test-giver and our son wondering if he “answered correctly” with each task given to him. He surprised us by knowing much more than we thought possible in some areas—and much less in others. It’s an interesting process to watch someone you know so well—and love so deeply—mimic complicated patterns one moment and not know how old he is the next.

The testing presented to our son was the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, 5th Edition. This test is comprised of fluid reasoning, knowledge, quantitative reasoning, visual-spacial processing, and working memory. The Peabody Developmental Motor Skills, 2nd Edition; Beery-Buktenica Test of Visual Integration; and the Pediatric Evaluation of Disability Inventory were also included in our evaluation. Additionally, we filled our some paperwork with a lot of questions we were to answer from our point of view.


The process was slightly emotional—and long. At the end of day two, we all started fading away, even though we started out strong. Day two was certainly more trying from the very beginning. I liked how it was spaced out and that there were two highly qualified people independently testing. It felt very professional and structured. I believe them. I trust them. They were confident in their action and kind at the same time.

The Aftermath

The results took two weeks—during which we had a two hour conversation with Dr. Cecelia McCarton where we walked through next steps. This is what we needed this whole time. This whole journey. This whole entire year. “Do this,” and, “This is what is wrong.”  This was worth the fifteen hour drive both ways and the $5,400 in tests—an answer and a path to follow.

We walked around like zombies for the next two days with eyes red and sentences going unfinished. Then we got to work on starting the steps we needed to follow. I am sure I got a fist full of gray hair from those first few phone calls I made. At least one receptionist got yelled at that week. Holding back from telling off someone who rejected services to our son was so hard, and I worked to let go of the anger over the fact that most places didn’t even bother to call back.

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We have dug hard and deep, and we are finding some really beautiful options for our son’s needs. I can’t wait to get them started so I can share more.

That saying, “If you have met one kid with autism, you’ve met one kid with autism,” is so true. Each kid truly needs a very individualized plan. Next time, I will elaborate on the struggles, wait times, and triumphs of resources here in Nashville. So stay tuned . . .



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