The ASD Assessment
If you suspect your child has ASD, you can use our simple behaviour trait checker and record what is happening with your child to support your case. Ensure you have contacted your child’s SenCo and/or health visitor (children under 5) to let them know of your concerns. It would also be useful if they, too, could record their observations at this stage. Tracking your child’s behaviour is critical.
- Based on your local authority, either your Senco, Health visitor (under 5) or GP can refer you for an ASD assessment.
- You should refer to your diary of behaviour traits to help support your rationale for an assessment.
- Depending on your local authority, you will be referred to a cross-functional team who will undertake the assessment. Ensure that whichever professional body is referring you gives you a clear understanding of who will be involved and how the assessment will be carried out.
- Be prepared, wait times can be extremely long. Some local authorities are taking up to 2 years.
- Be aware there is an NHS system called Right to Choose:
“NHS Right to Choose is a set of rights that all NHS patients in England have. It gives them more control over their healthcare by allowing them to choose where they get their care from, including from private providers. Patients can also choose to get their care from a different hospital or clinic if the first one does not meet their needs. This can help to reduce waiting times for appointments, giving patients greater choice and control over their care. For more information check here.”
Warning! The providers that are accepted as part of the right to choose are also experiencing high demand and long wait times. Your GP/assessment team can help you understand which other providers are applicable to offer care.
The assessment itself will comprise one or more appointments for you and your child with a team of professionals.
For a child requiring diagnosis, the team may:
- Ask detailed questions about your child’s development
- Observe how your child plays and watch how you and your child interact
- Read any reports submitted by their school, GP or nursery
- Ask about medical history and do a physical examination
- Visit your child’s school or nursery to observe them
For an adult requiring diagnosis, the team may:
- Ask for a detailed questionnaire to be completed about the adult and any problems they have be experiencing
- Speak to someone who knew the adult as a child to find out about their childhood
- Read any reports submitted by their GP regarding this and any other health issues
Once this process has been completed, you will receive a report, either in person or in the post.
These reports can be difficult to understand as they may be full of language used by healthcare professionals, so do ask the assessment team if you are having trouble understanding. It is important to understand exactly what they are saying about your child.
The report should state:
- If the child (or adult) being assessed has ASD (May say something like ‘meets criteria for autism spectrum diagnosis)
- What support the child/adult may need – Such as social interaction, communication, sensory needs and sensitivities
- What the child/adult is good at
You may be offered an appointment to discuss the report, which could be very beneficial. If you receive an ASD diagnosis, this report will be used throughout childhood and into adulthood as it is a lifelong condition.
There is a chance you may not be happy with the assessment or the report. This may be because you do not get a diagnosis of autism, you are given an alternative diagnosis you do not agree with (such as learning disability), or you are asked to come back at a later date when signs of autism may be clearer.
If this is the case, you have the right to:
- Discuss the report with the team
- Request a second opinion from another team via the NHS
- Request a second opinion from a private professional outside the NHS (this would likely speed up the process but will also be in high demand)
Unfortunately getting your assessment appointment does not necessarily mean your struggle for a diagnosis is over. Be prepared for a fight. We know from experience that this process isn’t usually easy. If you can, build a support network around you and your child and be prepared to speak up, you don’t have to accept everything you are told as fact.
Do bear in mind that if you do not get an ASD diagnosis it could be because this is actually not the correct diagnosis for your child. There is some crossover in behaviour traits between ASD and other ND conditions, ADHD for example.