Autism Assessment: A guide on what to expect

Autism assessment: An introduction

The team at One Central Health provides autism assessments for clients of all ages.

While the word ‘assessment’ might sound scary, the truth is that the actual experience is anything but!

Most assessments for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are done during childhood. However, there’s no reason why an autism assessment can’t be conducted for adults as well.

To put your mind at ease we’ve created this handy guide to ensure you know exactly what to expect during an autism assessment.

How are autism assessments done? Who does them? How do they work? What can you expect?

Read on to find out more. You can also use the quick-links below to jump to any part of the article you want.

Contents

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder (or ASD for short) is a developmental disorder. It can affect one’s communication skills, behaviour and ability to function in various social environments.

Autism is a developmental disorder.

Signs and symptoms of Autism

Signs and symptoms of a potential ASD diagnosis can include any or all of the following:

  • Avoidance of eye contact.
  • Lacking the ability to engage in social conversation or difficult speaking with others.
  • Limited awareness of social cues.
  • Inability to understand the moods, actions, feelings or behaviour of others.
  • An intense or excessive interest in a very specific topic without any interest in anything else.
  • Repetitious behaviour.
  • Issues with sleeping.
  • Other developmental issues.

It’s important to realise that this list does not include all the potential symptoms of ASD. Nor is someone with ASD likely to exhibit all of them.

To learn more about what signs to look out for, check out the helpful NSW Health website.

The spectrum of symptoms

Like its name suggests, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) exists on a spectrum. What this means is that each and every person with ASD experiences a different set of symptoms. These symptoms also present at different levels of severity. No expression or diagnosis of ASD is exactly the same. Just as we all have strengths and weaknesses, so too will our children and people with ASD.

Every person with autism experiences different symptoms.

Autism myths

Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions, misunderstandings and outright myths about autism. For more about some of the most common mistakes made about ASD, read our blog here: 10 Myths About Autism.

How do Autism Assessments work?

3 stages of an ASD assessment

In Western Australia, an Autism Assessment is conducted in three main stages:

  1. If you, your GP, your family nurse or your child’s school notice signs of possible autism, they will ask you to see your GP. Your GP will then refer you to a paediatrician for consultation.
  1. Your paediatrician may then do one of the following things:
    1. Consider medical or therapeutic intervention and request a review in a few months to see if your child’s presentation has changed. This is often a process followed if other factors are being considered that may “look like ASD”.
    2. Refer you to a multidisciplinary assessment team for a comprehensive assessment.

Your child will be booked to see two clinicians who will assess your child in formal assessment and play.

Who conducts an Autism Assessment?

Typically the professionals who will be conducting your autism assessment are:

  • A psychologist; and
  • A speech pathologist

Psychologists are allied health professionals who use a variety of therapeutic techniques to help clients improve their mental health and general wellbeing.

Speech pathologists are allied health professionals who work with clients experiencing communication issues and provide numerous techniques and methods of therapy to help improve clients improve.

ASD assessments are typically conducted by a psychologist and speech pathologist.

These assessors are highly trained to assess your child’s presentation and behaviour, and determine if ASD is the appropriate diagnosis for them.

This is typically the part that is referred to as the Autism Assessment.

Who is qualified to conduct the assessment?

Some therapists may be able to complete their component of the assessment, though not all therapists are qualified to do this.

What if I already see a speech therapist or psychologist? Can’t they just do a report?

Please discuss this with your therapist directly. If they can provide this for you, let our assessment team know and we can liaise with the other clinician for you. (You will need to disclose the details of your therapist or therapists if you would like this to happen.)

What happens at an Autism Assessment?

Autism assessments are designed to gather as much relevant information about the individual in question as possible. When you first arrive you and your child will meet both clinicians initially. It’s normal for children and adults to feel nervous about the appointment. Nevertheless children who go through an autism assessment often find it fun.

It’s normal to feel nervous about the appointment.

After an initial greeting, the parent/s (or carer) may go into a different room with one of the clinicians. The child being assessed will remain with the other clinician.

The one being assessed

The clinician with the child will ask questions and do some activities to get to know what they like doing, what they’re good at, what they find difficult and what things they wish were different.

Parent/carer of a child

Parents or carers discuss their daily activities and routines with their respective clinician, as well as answer questions about school, social involvement, friends and other related topics.

Developing an understanding

It’s important to note that there are no right or wrong answers to any of these questions. Both clinicians will want to spend time with the parents and the child so they can get a good understanding of your child.

There are no right or wrong answers

The clinicians may wish to speak with other people in your child’s life such as a different parent or a school teacher. They may also wish to observe your child in another environment such as home or school. They will let you know if this is the case.

How long does an Autism Assessment take?

An ASD assessment is typically a one-off appointment and can take up to 4 hours. You may have further appointments if more information is needed.

What happens after the Autism Assessment?

Results

Once the assessment has finished the clinicians will go off and compile a report of their findings and observations. The assessors will discuss their impressions and results with your paediatrician at which point they will agree on the outcome. They will then determine if there is a diagnosis of ASD and make appropriate recommendations in a report.

Report

They will then provide this report to you and encourage you to provide it onward to the school and referring GP. The report might also contain advice about how to support the child moving forward.

Review

Once all parties agree on the outcome of the assessment you will be contacted by an assessor to discuss the results. This discussion will give you a chance to ask questions and clarify your understanding. The assessors will also talk about next steps and make recommendations to support your child.

Note: that this will occur regardless of whether an actual diagnosis for ASD is given or not.

What happens after my child is diagnosed with ASD?

Autism is not a disease and therefore there’s no such thing as a ‘cure’. ASD is a developmental disorder and can be treated accordingly in a number of ways.

Autism is not a disease.

Medication

Medication might help with certain symptoms, like aggressive behaviour, anxiety, attention issues or problems with hyperactivity.

Therapy

Therapy, such as psychology, occupational therapy, speech therapy and behaviour therapy, are all used to help clients diagnosed with ASD as well as their families and carers.

Can One Central Health help?

You bet we can.

We provide comprehensive autism assessments, with teams of psychologists and speech pathologists on site. We also offer comprehensive and best practice allied health therapy. Our multidisciplinary team offer an unrivalled level of experience, expertise and professionalism. We would love the opportunity to help you and your family.

Call us today on (08) 9344 1318.

Would you like to know more about autism spectrum disorder assessments?

Would you like more information about our therapy services?

Or are you ready to book in an appointment with our team?

Give us a call today on 08 9344 1318 or contact us online.

Share this article

We’re here to support you. Always.

Want to book an appointment or find out more?
Book online or give us a call today!