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What to Expect from an Autism Assessment: A Parents' Guide

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

Getting an autism assessment can feel like a big decision for you and your family. For many, getting a comprehensive and timely diagnosis can be helpful as it enables family members and school teachers to have a better understanding of your child as an individual, and their unique set of strengths and difficulties. For your child, an assessment can enable them to have a greater understanding of themselves. Many young people have told us that they often worry about other people thinking that they are being rude, when this is not at all their intention. A greater awareness of autism will not only help your child to feel more positive in their identity, but also help them to understand why sometimes people might misinterpret them, and help those around them to be more understanding.


At The Lotus Psychology Practice, we are here to guide you through the process and support you.


autism spectrum disorder

So, what is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), also known as Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects up to 1 in 100 people. It is diagnosed based on two main criteria – differences in social communication and difficulties with cognitive flexibility, including sensory differences and/or areas of strong interests.


What this means is that for some young people, they may have a preference for strict routine, difficulty talking to other people, picking up social cues or have strong sensory reactions to noise, smell, taste, texture, touch or light. They may hold unusual or intense interests. Autism is a spectrum, which means that no two autistic children will have the same experience or presentation. A well known saying by Dr Stephen Shore, an autism advocate is:

"When you've met one autistic... you've met one autistic"

For some young people, signs of autism may be apparent very early on, and for some the signs become more apparent during the transition to secondary school, a time when the school environment can become increasingly overwhelming. We know that particularly in young girls, autism can present differently, with higher levels of camouflaging (or masking) their neurodivergent traits. This requires a high level of effort, and can contribute to fatigue, avoidance of social situations or mental health difficulties such as anxiety or depression.


The rates of co-occurring conditions in autism are high, and can include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Intellectual Disability, Tourette Syndrome (or Tic Disorders), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Social Anxiety and Depression. Therefore, if you think your child has some signs of autism it is important to ensure a comprehensive assessment with experienced clinicians.


 

What to expect before an Autism Assessment...

Before the assessment, a member of our team will be in touch to hear about your current concerns, why you are seeking an assessment and to answer any questions you may have. We will gather information to help the assessment, including school reports and additional questionnaires that may be helpful.

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And during the Assessment?

At The Lotus Psychology Practice, we comply with NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) guidelines with a multi-disciplinary team of Clinical Psychologists, Psychiatrists and Speech and Language Therapists. Our assessment of autism involves gathering information from schools or tutors, a detailed developmental history from parents/carers and a standardised observational assessment with the young person.

child autism

A clinician will meet with you for a detailed developmental history, and may use a standardised tool if indicated (for example, the 3Di or ADI-R). Another clinician will meet with your child and carry out an observational assessment, using a standardised tool (ADOS-2), which will involve some puzzles, play activities and some questions about friendships and feelings. The information is shared between the two assessing clinicians to determine whether a young person meets the criteria for a diagnosis


How to prepare in advance

Before an assessment, it can be helpful to reflect on your concerns and observations. You may wish to spend some time considering the benefit of an assessment or diagnosis, for example any adaptions or support you hope for. You can help by gathering a family history and evidence of your concerns, which may include specific examples from throughout your child’s life. It can be helpful to discuss with other family members who know your child well. You can also help your child to prepare for the assessment, by letting them know what to expect. It may help to show them pictures of the clinic, and the clinician they will be meeting. It is important to let them know that it is a chance for us to get to know them, to play and enjoy fun activities together, and that there are no right or wrong answers.


What Next?

After the assessment you will be offered a feedback session to discuss the findings and answer any questions you may have. You will be provided with a detailed report with individualised recommendations that can be shared with schools. This will include signposting to services and information sources. We understand that there is a lot of information to take in at the assessment, therefore, as part of our autism assessment package, we offer an optional follow-up appointment a month after to discuss any concerns or questions.


If you would like to find out more, get in touch with us at The Lotus Psychology Practice.


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