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What is involved in an assessment for Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Diagnostic Assessment for Autism Spectrum Disorders

Diagnosis of an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be a daunting process. At Head On Health, we are here to support you and your child every step of the way to guide you through the process while conducting a thorough and comprehensive assessment to ensure your child gets all the support they need. That is why we are one of the most recommended clinics on the Gold Coast for these types of assessments. We love working and supporting families on their journey towards uncovering answers and finding supports and solutions to improve the quality of life of the children we work with.

An assessment for ASD can be complicated. There are quite a few conditions that can mimic Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as other conditions that commonly co-occur. We need to take all of these into consideration when diagnosing an ASD. The following outlines the process for a diagnosis of ASD. The order in which these steps are taken will depend on practicalities and availability of relevant individuals. Not every step on the list below will be required to form a diagnosis. It depends on the complexity of the individual’s presentation and what assessments have already been done.

· General interview with parent(s) or carer(s).

The general interview provides a means to understand the general nature of your concerns and helps us to set goals for assessment and treatment. It is also important at this stage to gain an understanding of other issues that might co-occur with the ASD symptoms such as anxiety, depression, anger, behavioural problems, and language and learning difficulties.

· Diagnostic interview with parent or parents.

A parent or parents will be interviewed using the Autism Diagnostic Interview – Revised. This is one of the current leading diagnostic interview schedules for ASD.

· Observation of the child

An observation of the child is particularly important. This can be conducted at the clinic as well as at the child’s school or daycare depending upon appropriateness. Here we are looking at how the child interacts with the therapist and others to add to our understanding of their traits.

· Teacher interview

Teachers are particularly useful in diagnosis in that they have ongoing contact with the child and are able to report how they function in a variety of situations, particularly social situations. A teacher interview can be conducted over the phone or combined with a school/childcare observation.

Questionnaire Data

You and your child's teacher will be asked to complete some questionnaires to assess for a range of symptoms. If your child is over 8 years of age, they may also complete a questionnaire to report on their own experiences of symptoms where appropriate. These questionnaires allow us to compare your child's symptoms to others their age to determine the level of difficulty they are experiencing. This provides us with a rich and diverse picture of your child's functioning and symptoms.

· Speech and language assessment

Many children with ASD have language difficulties, particularly with pragmatic language. Some have developmental delays in language while others have excellent language skills. A speech and language assessment is conducted by a speech and language pathologist and helps to complete the picture of the child’s strengths and weaknesses. Speech and language pathologists are also useful for treating any speech and language concerns.

· IQ assessment/Learning assessment

An IQ assessment is used to understand the child’s intellectual strengths and weaknesses and screen for possible cognitive delays. The most commonly used IQ test are the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence – III (2 years 6 months to 6 years), the Wechler Intelligence Scale for Children – IV (6 years to 16 years 11 months), and the Wechsler Non-Verbal Scale of Ability (4 years to 21 years 11 months). It is also useful to look at other learning needs. This may already have been done and/or may not be necessary.

· Report and feedback session

Once these assessments have been completed, parents are provided with a report outlining the psychologist’s findings. These will also be discussed verbally at a feedback session where treatment options will be discussed. The report helps you to communicate the assessment to all relevant support staff and services as well as apply for NDIS funding where applicable.

· Visit to your paediatrician or psychiatrist

A paediatrician or psychiatrist can be useful in confirming a diagnosis of ASD, co-ordinating appropriate services, and discussing and relevant medical treatment. so that you can make an informed decision. A paediatrician or psychiatrist is also important for school verification and ascertainment for extra assistance at school where relevant, however, we can also complete this form for you. They can also assist with some Centrelink requirements for extra financial assistance in some cases as can we.

It is very important that you and your child feel comfortable with the process and are able to ask us as many questions are you like along the way. We are here to help and guide you. While the process may be a little lengthy, it is worth it for the quality of information and support you will receive.

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