Athena Care Knoxville, Tennessee
Athena Care is a caring group of licensed mental health professionals that specialize in comprehensive, evidence-based autism testing for children, teenagers and adults. Autism assessments give you valuable insights into your strengths and differences. These insights offer more than just personal growth but also assist your care team in making accurate diagnoses and in planning effective treatments (if needed).
If you live in Knoxville or in the surrounding area, Athena Care Knoxville is conveniently located to meet your testing needs. Our assessments generally involve three appointments: an intake interview, a day of testing, and a feedback session. At the end of the process, you’ll receive a full report that includes assessment results and recommendations.
Whether you’re seeking testing for yourself or for your child or teen, our Knoxville clinic has the services you need. In addition to autism testing, we also provide a full range of mental health services under one roof, including comprehensive psychological testing, ADHD testing, medication management, therapy, intensive outpatient therapy, interventional psychiatry such as Spravato (esketamine) and TMS. Unlike many clinics, we also accept most major insurance plans.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
ASD is a type of neurodivergence, meaning a different way for the brain to work. It shapes how people perceive, interact with and navigate the world around them. Autism affects people in different ways and is referred to as a “spectrum” that also includes what we used to call Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder—not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).
Like everyone else, autistic people have unique strengths and challenges. Some may require lots of support finding their way in a neurotypical world, while others may require little to no support. Some people with autism may excel in areas such as creativity, attention to detail, and problem-solving, while also experiencing challenges in social communication, sensory processing or navigating certain environments.
At Athena Care, we believe that autism is part of the rich tapestry of human diversity, contributing to the unique characteristics of each person it touches. Just as every person is distinct, so too is every experience of autism.
Common Causes of Autism
Like many other complex conditions that affect human experience, we don’t yet understand the exact causes of autism. Based on current research, it is likely that a combination of genetic, biological and environmental factors contributes to the occurrence of autism1,2.
- Genetic Factors. Individuals with a family history of autism are more likely to develop autism, and research has identified specific gene mutations and variations as potential contributors. In addition, some genetic syndromes, such as Fragile X syndrome, Rett syndrome, and Tuberous Sclerosis, are associated with an increased likelihood of autism. Advanced parental age, particularly in fathers, has also been linked to autism.
- Neurological Factors. Differences in brain development, particularly during prenatal and early postnatal periods, may play a role in autism. Researchers have also observed structural and functional variations in certain brain regions in autistic people.
- Environmental Factors. Maternal exposure to certain drugs, infections or toxins during pregnancy may increase the likelihood of developing autism. In addition, complications during birth such as low birth weight, premature birth or oxygen deprivation have been associated with increased likelihood of autism.
Signs and Symptoms of Autism
Given that each person has unique strengths and challenges, these characteristics won’t apply to all autistic people nor will all autistic people experience these characteristics to the same degree. That being said, autistic individuals often show differences in areas such as communication and social interaction, sensory processing, preference for routine/sameness, and repetitive behaviors and passionate interests.
Social communication and interaction. Some autistic children begin talking later than their neurotypical peers or they may stop talking after a period of talking. They may also sound different than neurotypical peers, repeating memorized phrases in a sing-song manner or using a flat, monotonous tone. Some autistic children use advanced, “adult-like” language early on.
Autistic individuals often prefer more straight-forward and literal communication and may struggle to interpret subtle social cues and non-literal speech like sarcasm. They may avoid small talk but light up when talking about their passionate interests, about which they may become experts.
Some autistic people dislike and avoid eye contact or engage in eye contact that neurotypical people may experience as intense. Some young autistic children may prefer to play alone than with peers or they may be more interested in interacting with people much older or younger than them.
Sensory Processing. Sometimes autistic individuals are hypersensitive to sensory stimuli: they hear, smell, or feel things that others don’t. They may notice small details that others miss. This sensory sensitivity may cause them to avoid new things or to become overwhelmed by a lot of sensory information. At the same time, autistic people are often hyposensitive to other sensory stimuli. They may not react to pain or promptly notice hunger, thirst, satiety or when they need to go the bathroom.
Repetitive Behaviors and Passionate Interests. Autistic people often thrive with routine and may feel stressed by changes. They may engage in repetitive behaviors for enjoyment or to soothe themselves. These may include spinning, rocking, fidgeting with their fingers, flapping their hands, or making certain sounds. Autistic children may prefer to play with toys like blocks or cars by sorting them or lining them up instead of building with them or driving them.
Look out for these age-related milestones in your young child3:
By 9 months of age
- Avoids or doesn’t hold eye contact with you
- Doesn’t respond when you call their name
- Doesn’t show big facial expressions like surprised, happy, angry, or sad
By 12 months
- Doesn’t play pat-a-cake or other simple interactive games
- Uses few or no gestures like waving goodbye
By 15 – 24 months
- Doesn’t show you an object they like or share other interests with you by 15 months
- Doesn’t point to show you something interesting by 18 months
- Doesn’t notice when others feel upset or hurt by 24 months
- Struggles with speech and/or language delays
- Displays unique sensitivity to noise or touch
By 3 – 5 years of age
- Doesn’t notice other children and join them in play by 3 years
- Doesn’t engage in pretend play, like pretending to be a superhero or teacher, by 4 years
- Doesn’t sing, dance or act for you by 5 years
- Experiences meltdown behaviors that are frequent and last more than 20 minutes
- Continues to struggle with potty training
An older child may show:
Unusual ways of communicating and relating to other people, such as:
- Tending to not look at or listen to people
- Having trouble with the back and forth of conversation
- Often talking at length about a favorite subject without noticing the social cues of other people
- Using facial expressions and gestures that don’t match what they’re saying
- Speaking in an unusual tone of voice that may sound sing-song or flat
- Having trouble understanding another person’s point of view or being unable to predict or understand other people’s actions (theory of mind)
Repetitive behaviors or restricted interests, such as:
- Repeating words or phrases, flapping their hands, rocking their body, spinning in circles, or showing other repetitive behaviors
- Having a persistent and intense interest in specific topics like numbers, facts or details
- Focusing on parts of objects, such as the wheels of a car
- Being highly sensitive to the way things sound, smell, taste, look or feel
- Being especially attached to routines or particular ways of doing things. For example, becoming very upset if dinner starts a little later than usual or they are driven home from school a different way. They might insist on playing with toys the same way every time or become upset when objects are moved “out of order.”
It’s important to note that autistic children won’t necessarily show all of these signs, and many children without autism will show a few of these signs. Consequently, a professional autism assessment may be necessary to receive an accurate diagnosis.
For mental health care in Tennessee, call or text:
One of our Care Coordinators will help you get the care you need.
Autism Testing and Assessment in Knoxville, TN
Athena Care Knoxville specializes in evidence-based autism testing for children, teenagers and adults. Autism testing helps you understand your unique constellation of strengths and differences. These insights will guide recommendations and services to help you overcome obstacles, build upon your strengths and thrive.
As part of our mission to provide high-quality mental health care, we utilize standardized and comprehensive autism assessments. Your licensed psychologist will conduct a detailed clinical interview with you to fully understand your symptoms, history and concerns. Based on this information, your psychologist will select assessment materials that best fit your needs. After you complete the testing activities and assessments, your psychologist will analyze the results and provide detailed feedback and recommendations for you. They will also answer any questions you may have.
Autism Testing for Adults
Athena Care provides autism testing for adults in a supportive and affirming environment. Many adults that we’ve worked with find receiving an autism diagnosis to be a profoundly validating experience. They often say that they wish they’d known sooner and feel glad to gain deeper insight and understanding into themselves. If you suspect you might be on the spectrum, learning more about your strengths and differences could lead to many positive results.
Autism Testing for Children and Teens
Early intervention is often key for helping children and teens with more severe forms of autism thrive. This starts with obtaining autism testing and receiving a formal autism diagnosis. At that point, your child may be eligible for and benefit from services like applied behavior analysis (ABA), sensory integration, speech and language therapy, behavioral therapy, social skills training or other services and therapies. A formal diagnosis will also help you secure accommodations and services for your child at school.
How to Find an Autism Testing Center Near Me
There are numerous ways to find autism services, ranging from soliciting recommendations to searching online. When contacting resources, ask about the specific services they offer, the professionals involved, any referral processes, and whether they accept insurance. It’s important to find licensed professionals with experience in autism assessment. Here are some tips to find an autism testing center in your area:
- Contact your healthcare provider, such as your family doctor or pediatrician. Pediatricians often play a key role in the early detection and diagnosis of autism, and they may be able to guide you on next steps or refer you to a specialist or diagnostic center.
- Mental health centers and clinics may offer diagnostic services for autism. Contact local mental health professionals or community clinics to inquire about available assessments.
- Licensed psychologists and neuropsychologists may conduct autism assessments. Contact local psychologists or mental health professionals, and inquire about their experience in diagnosing autism.
- If the individual being assessed is a student, contact the special education department of your local school district. School psychologists and special education teams may provide assessments or refer you to appropriate resources.
- Speech-language pathologists are often involved in assessing communication skills, which is a crucial aspect of autism assessment. Contact local speech-language pathology clinics or professionals for information on autism testing services.
- Use online directories and resources to search for autism testing centers in your area. Websites of autism advocacy organizations, such as Autism Speaks or the Autism Society, may provide directories or links to local services.
- Seek recommendations from friends, family members, or other parents who have experience with autism assessments. Personal referrals can provide valuable insights into the quality of services provided.
- Conduct an internet search. The following are queries you can type into search engines to find autism testing near you:
- “autism testing near me”
- “autism assessment near me”
- “autism assessment clinic near me”
- “local resources for autism assessment”
Does Health Insurance Cover Autism Testing & Treatment in Tennessee?
In Tennessee, coverage for autism testing and treatment under health insurance can vary based on the specific insurance plan. Many insurance plans are required to provide coverage for autism-related services, including diagnostic tests and treatments like ABA. However, the extent of coverage and the specific services covered may differ between plans.
In particular, Tennessee law mandates that fully insured health plans must provide coverage for autism services for individuals with autism from ages 3-21 years with a maximum benefit of $60,000 per year. Tennessee’s Medicaid plan known as TennCare also provides coverage for autism services for children up to age 21. Another potential financial resource for Tennessee residents is the Katy Beckett waiver.
However, not all plans are subject to this state requirement. Given differences between plans, it’s crucial for people to carefully review their insurance policies, paying attention to any information related to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and behavioral health services.
Which Insurance Providers Cover Autism Testing and Treatment?
Many major health insurance companies cover autism testing and treatment when certain requirements are met. These include companies such as Aetna, Ambetter, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Tennessee, Cigna, TRICARE and UnitedHealthcare. Tennessee law mandates that fully insured plans must provide coverage for autism services. However, this requirement does not extend to self-insured plans, so coverage may not be guaranteed.
Since the services your insurance company will cover are largely dictated by your plan, it’s important to carefully review your insurance policies, paying attention to any information related to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and behavioral health services. The most reliable method for determining your coverage may be to contact your health insurance company directly.
How Much Does Autism Testing Cost in Knoxville, TN?
The cost of autism testing in Knoxville, Tennessee, can vary based on several factors, including the type of assessments needed, the healthcare provider or facility conducting the testing, and your insurance coverage. If you were to pay out-of-pocket, the cost would likely range from around $1,200 to $2,000, depending on various factors.
Many insurance plans provide coverage for autism testing and related services. Check with your insurance provider to understand the extent of coverage, any out-of-pocket expenses, and any specific requirements for obtaining coverage.
Diagnostic Services and Providers
The cost of autism testing can depend on the specific diagnostic assessments required and the professionals conducting the evaluation. Psychologists, developmental pediatricians, and other specialists may have varying fees for their services. You may be able to obtain a lower cost evaluation at a college or university in which graduate students perform the assessments while under the supervision of a licensed psychologist. If you’re seeking testing for your school-age child, their school may be able to arrange testing at no cost to you. However, they may also have an extensive waiting list for those services.
How to Book an Appointment for Autism Evaluation
To book an appointment for an autism evaluation at Athena Care Knoxville, fill out the form below or call or text us at 877-641-1155. One of our care coordinators will talk to you about your situation, answer any questions you may have and help you navigate insurance coverage issues.
To book an appointment at another facility, visit their website. You may be able to message them through the site or find an appropriate phone number to call to book an appointment. It’s helpful to have your insurance information handy when you contact them.
Can I Book an Autism test for My Child?
To schedule an appointment for your child at Athena Care Knoxville, call or text us at 877-641-1155 or fill out the form below. One of our care coordinators will talk to you about your child’s situation, answer any questions you may have and help you navigate insurance coverage issues.
What is the Screening and Assessment Process?
The autism screening and assessment process typically involves three appointments, including an intake interview, a day of testing, and a feedback session. At the end of the process, you’ll receive a full report that includes assessment results and comprehensive recommendations.
First Appointment: This is an intake interview and will typically last 45-60 minutes. In this appointment, the psychologist will ask questions about your current symptoms and background information that will be used to determine which assessments to use.
Second Appointment: This will be the day of testing and must be in-person. For adults, this appointment will typically last 3-4 hours. For children over the age of 8, this appointment can last 4-7 hours. For children 7 years of age or younger, this appointment typically lasts 1-4 hours.
During this testing appointment, you (or your child) will engage in a variety of different activities that could include playing, engaging in daily activities, and completing a variety of standardized tests to assess developmental, behavioral, communication, cognitive, sensory and motor skills.
Third Appointment: This is a feedback session. In this appointment, the psychologist will go over assessment results and make recommendations.
Autism Facts and Statistics in Tennessee
According to the Tennessee Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (TN-ADDM), the number of 8-year-old children identified with ASD within the area covered by TN-ADDM increased from 2.3% in 2018 to 2.8% in 2020. The increase in children identified with ASD may be related to autism awareness and availability of services4.
Additionally, about 1 in 36 four-year-old children were identified with ASD in Tennessee by TN-ADDM. Black children and Hispanic children were more likely than White children to be identified with ASD in Tennessee by age 4 years4.
Researchers estimate that 2.08% of adults ages 18-84 years in Tennessee have autism. The estimated percentage is much lower for females versus males at 0.77% and 3.48% respectively5.
For mental health care in Tennessee, call or text:
One of our Care Coordinators will help you get the care you need.
- Autism. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. April 19, 2023. https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/conditions/autism
- Khwaja, O.S. and Sahin, M. Translational research: Rett syndrome and Tuberous Sclerosis Complex. Curr Opin Pediatr. 2011; 23(6): 633–639.
- Signs and Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. March 28, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/signs.html
- A Snapshot of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Tennessee. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. March 23, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/addm-community-report/tennessee.html
- Dietz, P., Rose, C.E., McArthur, D. and Maenner, M. National and State Estimates of Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord. 2020; 50(12): 4258–4266.