Assessment and diagnosis

Learn more about how an autism diagnosis is made for children, teenagers and adults, and get tips and advice for sharing an autism diagnosis.

 

Could it be autism?

As a parent you may be worried about your child’s development. You, or someone close to you, may have noticed that your child’s speech is delayed, or that they seem to be ‘aloof’ or ‘detached’ from you. There can be many reasons for a child’s development being delayed. One of the possibilities could be autism.

As an adult, you may see the world differently from others, or feel yourself to be “different” from others. You may have difficulty understanding what people mean or find what they say confusing. It’s possible that you may be autistic.

If a child with a developmental delay is suspected of being autistic, an assessment is made by a team of professionals experienced in the field.

The team will be made up of a paediatrician (or child and adolescent psychiatrist), a psychologist and a speech pathologist. Between them they will carry out a series of different assessments over several appointments.

Once the assessment has been completed, the team will decide if your child meets the criteria for a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder and a diagnosis will be made.

Diagnosis is usually made from the age of about 18 months onwards. Sometimes a provisional diagnosis is made when the child is very young and is reassessed at a later date.

There are a number of government-funded teams that specialise in the assessment and diagnosis of autism. Parents can contact these teams directly, but you may need a referral from your GP or paediatrician.

There are also private practitioners and teams who conduct assessments on a fee-paying basis.

Amaze can help you locate an autism assessment team. Contact the Amaze Autism Advisors on 1300 308 699, email info@amaze.org.au or use the webchat on this site for more information.

After a child’s diagnosis

Once a diagnosis is made, the parents will receive a copy of the assessment report. This report is used to plan a program for the child in consultation with parents and service providers.

The assessment report is also used by government agencies, schools, respite care and other services to determine eligibility for funding or other support.

It is important to remember that a diagnosis does not change who your child is.

A diagnosis can be useful, however, to help inform families, professionals, child care workers, teachers and other people involved in the child’s care or learning about what strategies, interventions, or supports have been shown to be effective with other children with similar difficulties.

It is important to note that a diagnosis can inform developmental, educational and social outcomes at any age, no matter when the individual is diagnosed.

You may have read or seen something about autism and thought “That’s me!”, or you may be the parent, partner or friend of an adult whom you think may be autistic. You are not alone. Because of our improved knowledge and understanding of these conditions, a number of adults are now being diagnosed.

Some people in this position choose to see a professional for a diagnosis, while others prefer not to. This is up to the individual. The important thing is to learn as much as you can about autism, to help you understand that autistic individuals can have a different view of the world around them, and might find socialising challenging.

Even a late diagnosis can still be very important for individuals, both for themselves and their families. A diagnosis can provide a much better understanding of the challenges an individual may face, and opportunities to find supports that can help.

There are a few scenarios where an adult will seek assessment for an autism diagnosis.

  1. The person may have been diagnosed with another ‘disorder’ in childhood or adolescence, such as an intellectual disability or a mental health condition. A carer or clinician may observe characteristics consistent with autism in the adult and recommend an assessment.
  2. The person may have struggled for many years with social situations and a feeling of “being different”. They, or someone close to them, may hear something about autism that encourages the person to investigate a diagnosis.
  3. Sometimes when a child receives an autism diagnosis, other family members – such as parents or grandparents – might begin to identify with a number of qualities or characteristics associated with autism. This can lead to them exploring a diagnosis for themselves.

There are currently no publicly funded adult assessment clinics in Victoria.

For adults seeking an assessment, the best option is to consult a psychologist and/or psychiatrist with experienced in the assessment and diagnosis for autism. They will ask a lot of questions about your childhood, experiences at school and as an adult, and may do some psychological or psychiatric testing. This information will be used to help make a diagnosis. A speech pathologist could also be consulted to assess the individual’s social communication skills.

To locate psychologists and psychiatrists experienced in the assessment and diagnosis of autism, you can use Find a Psychologist or Find a Psychiatrist.

For more information about adult diagnosis, please contact the Amaze Autism Advisors on 1300 308 699, email info@amaze.org.au or use the webchat on this site for more information.

For some people, receiving an autism diagnosis can be an emotional event.

It may come as a relief, after a long period of not being sure why they, or their child, are different from others their own age or in their peer groups.

What is the future?

Autism is a lifelong condition. There are many things that autistic individuals and families can do to learn more about autism, connect with people who have shared experiences, and get support to live healthy, happy and fulfilling lives.

There are many support groups around Victoria and Australia, set up by people who do a wonderful job of providing safe, supportive spaces. Find out more about peer support groups here.

There are therapies and interventions that can help autistic people develop their social interaction and communication skills. With the right help and support, great outcomes can be achieved. Contact the Amaze Autism Advisors on 1300 308 699, email info@amaze.org.au or use the webchat on this site for more information.

Sharing a diagnosis

When you’re ready to share an autism diagnosis with your family and friends, it can be difficult to know where to start. You may wonder how much you should share with people, and if you even have to tell anyone at all! These are common questions, and the answer is the same: there is no one way to talk about your autism diagnosis – you just need to do what’s right for you.

To help you to determine how and when to share a diagnosis, we have information sheets on Sharing the Diagnosis and Sharing the Diagnosis with the School on the Resources page of this site.

For more information

To get more information – including advice tailored to your specific situation – please contact the Amaze Autism Advisors on 1300 308 699, email info@amaze.org.au or use the webchat on this site.

This service is open from 8am–7pm, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays).

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