The autism diagnostic interview-revised (ADI-R) is a standardized interview conducted with the caregivers of a child being assessed for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This interview gathers information about a person’s developmental history, social interactions, communication skills, and repetitive behaviors. The ADI-R plays a significant role in the diagnostic process of autism. 

A clinician making an autism assessment.

What to Expect During the ADI-R Assessment 

The ADI-R typically takes about two hours to complete. During the assessment, a trained professional, often a psychologist or clinician, will ask you, as the caregiver, a series of questions about your child's early development, language acquisition, social interactions, and behaviors. The questions are designed to gather information and provide insight into your child's autism-related symptoms. 

Here are some examples of the types of questions you might encounter:  

  1. Reciprocal Social Interaction: 
    • How does your child engage with others? Do they initiate interactions or wait for others to engage with them? 

    • How does your child respond to their name being called? 

    • Can you describe your child's eye contact and interest in others' facial expressions? 

    • How does your child form and maintain friendships? 

  2. Communication and Language
    • When did your child start babbling and using their first words? 

    • How does your child use language to express their needs, wants, and feelings? 

    • Does your child have difficulties with understanding or following verbal instructions? 

    • Can you provide examples of any atypical language patterns or echolalia (repeating words or phrases)? 

  3. Restricted and Repetitive Behaviors: 
    • Does your child engage in repetitive movements or behaviors, such as hand flapping, rocking, or spinning objects? 

    • Are there specific interests or topics that your child is intensely focused on? 

    • Does your child display rigid adherence to routines or have difficulty with transitions? 

    • Have you noticed any sensory sensitivities or aversions in your child, such as to certain sounds, textures, or lights? 

The interviewer may also ask you for specific examples or anecdotes that illustrate the behaviors being discussed. 

The ADI-R assessment is a collaborative process, and the interviewer is there to guide you through the questions and ensure that the information gathered is accurate and relevant.

A caregiver and her young children read together.

Preparing for the ADI-R Assessment 

In preparation for the assessment, reflect on your child's early years, and be prepared to provide specific examples of their interactions, play, and language use. Take time to review your child's developmental history, medical records, and any relevant reports beforehand. Your participation and detailed responses contribute to a more accurate assessment, leading to appropriate interventions and support for your child.  

Navigating Emotions and Expectations 

As a parent, it is natural to feel a mix of emotions during the assessment process, which can be overwhelming at times. 

That’s why it’s important to maintain open communication with the interviewer, expressing any concerns or questions you may have so that they may advise and support you. Take comfort in the fact that the assessment is a step towards gaining a better understanding of your child's needs and accessing the necessary resources to help them thrive.   

Meaghan O'Dea Johnson
Author: Meaghan O'Dea Johnson, MS, CPNP-PC