Have you ever thought, I think my child may be Autistic , What do I do now or should I even pursue and autism diagnosis?
If you think you would like to pursue an autism diagnosis as an adult or have been told that your child may need an autism assessment, you may be wondering, what do I do now?
This question was one of the many driving forces that led me to establish Kids on the Spectrum and compile the first national private autism and neurodiversity directory. You may also be asking, is it even worth pursuing a diagnosis?
Why pursue a diagnosis at all?
Pursuing a diagnosis for yourself or your child is defiantly worthwhile. A diagnosis can and will;
- Helps you understand yourself or your child.
- Assists you in identifying strategies when preparing for change or transitions.
- Help you understand why there is anxiety and stress in unfamiliar situations.
- Give you or your child a sense of belonging and learn from the Autism community.
- It gives you access to funding through NDIS, carer supports, or school funding.
- Assist with trauma and mental health by providing strategies that can be tailored to your sensory.
Pursuing an Autism diagnosis.
If you think you or your child may be autistic then getting an assessment is the first step, There is no single test for autism. Instead, it will usually involve assessments and observations through a team of doctors and allied health professionals. Your first step is to see your GP. Your doctor may refer you to a paediatrician or a psychologist. They may also run some tests to rule out hearing, sight, or other medical issues.
Going to a private allied health professional will almost always be the quicker alternative if you can afford it. However, it can be quite an expensive option. You may be able to access testing through a public clinic. There are, however, reports of long wait times. If you do wish to explore this option, speak to your GP, who will be able to provide further information. You can also access a list of public autism assessment clinics here.
Who can diagnose Autism?
Paediatrician – A paediatrician is a Doctor who is specialised in treating children. A paediatrician can diagnose autism without consulting any other allied health professionals. However, they will often refer you to a psychologist for further testing. For a child, a paediatrician will almost always have to sign off on the diagnosis no matter the pathway you choose.
Psychologist – Psychologists study and help treat people’s cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behaviours. One of their main goals is to evaluate and understand their clients’ thoughts, emotions, and behaviour’s. A psychologist will;
- Assess your strengths and difficulties in thinking, learning, and communicating.
- Ask questions and review the information collected in the comprehensive needs assessment.
- Identifying behavioural and emotional patterns.
- Diagnose mental health concerns.
- Make referrals.
- Coming up with appropriate treatment plans
Additional allied health involvement.
No further assessments may be needed from any other health professionals. However, You may be referred to other allied health specialists or Doctors for more testing in some instances. If more than one health professional is involved, it is called a multidisciplinary assessment. It may include;
Speech therapist – The Speech therapist can assess communication and learning difficulties.
As part of an autism assessment, a Speech therapist may;
- Assess spoken and written language skills.
- Assessment of social skills, such as attention, conversation skills and play behaviour.
- Access communication strategies and investigate if augmentative or alternative communication devices may be required for a person who cannot communicate verbally.
- Learn if your child understands others and identifies any difficulties they may have sharing their thoughts, ideas, and feelings with others.
- Identify if you are an auditory or visual learner.
Occupational therapist – OTs may initially assess an autistic child or adult’s daily living and skills, and determine how these daily activities impact independence. An OT can also;
- Identify any sensory or regulation challenges that may impact a child’s behaviour or mental wellbeing.
- Teach you or your child skills to be able to focus and engage in tasks.
- Identify any underlying skills that a child must master in order to perform daily tasks, e.g., brushing teeth or bathing.
- Assist with fine and gross motor skills, e.g., classroom handwriting or riding a bicycle.
Psychiatrist – Specialising in Mental health, a psychiatrist is permitted to prescribe medications. You may be referred to a psychiatrist for further investigation if you or your child are suspected of being autistic. These are a few reasons you may be referred to a psychiatrist;
- If you or your child is self-harming or suicidal.
- Your medical team thinks that medication may improve your quality of life.
- Further investigation and tests are needed if a Co-existing mental health issue is suspected.
The Autism assessment?
There are many tests available for the diagnosis of Autism. Because of this, your medical team may include Pre-screening tests. However, there are two specific autism assessment tools. The main Autism assessments tests are;
Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Second Edition (ADOS-2) – The ADOS-2 is a semi-structured, standardised assessment of:
- Social interaction
- Restricted and repetitive behaviours
The assessment presents various activities that elicit behaviours directly related to a diagnosis of Autism. By observing and coding these behaviours, you can obtain information that informs diagnosis.
Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) – An experienced clinical interviewer conducts the ADI-R. Questions are directed to the parent or caretaker familiar with the developmental history and current behaviour of the individual being evaluated. The interview can assess both children and adults, as long as their mental age is above 2.0 years.
Interview questions cover eight content areas:
- The subject’s background, including family, education, previous diagnoses, and medications
- Overview of the subject’s behaviour
- Early development and developmental milestones
- Language acquisition and loss of language or other skills
- Current functioning in regard to language and communication
- Social development and play
- Interests and behaviours
- Clinically relevant behaviours, such as aggression, self-injury, and possible epileptic features
What do I do now?
While you wait for your autism diagnosis, you may find heading to our directory helpful. We have hundreds of businesses and organisations that can help you in your state. We also have a wide range of carer supports available. Head to our free directory now