A Step-by-Step Guide to Autism Assessments: The Importance of Early Diagnosis

A Step-by-Step Guide to Autism Assessments: The Importance of Early Diagnosis

Over the past decade, there has been a growing awareness of autism, a neurodevelopmental condition that can affect individuals in various ways. One crucial aspect of understanding and managing autism is through timely and accurate assessments. At Psicon, we believe an early diagnosis is the key to creating a happy, healthy and well-supported environment and lifestyle. 

The Importance of Early Diagnosis

Early diagnosis plays a crucial role in addressing the unique needs of individuals with autism. While autism is a lifelong condition, early identification allows for support and interventions that can make a substantial difference in an individual's life. The benefits of early diagnosis extend beyond childhood, impacting social and cognitive development throughout one's lifespan.

An essential element of early diagnosis involves promptly recognising signs of autism when suspicions or concerns arise. Waiting to seek an assessment can result in prolonged periods of uncertainty and missed opportunities for appropriate support. The sooner an individual is assessed, the sooner they can access resources and strategies to navigate the challenges associated with autism.

The Adult Autism Assessment Process

The assessment process for children differs from that for adults, which we will explain below. 

Step 1: Screening

The screening process offers clarity and insight into potential autistic traits. Conducted by a skilled psychology team and led by a consultant clinical psychologist, the screening aims to provide an initial understanding of an individual's experiences and behaviours. Should the screening results suggest the presence of autism, our experts will suggest moving forward with a diagnostic assessment. This thorough evaluation is designed to offer a conclusive answer, helping individuals and their support networks navigate the next steps in their journey with autism.

Step 2: Information Gathering

Before scheduling the assessment, someone familiar with the individual, preferably someone who has known them since their early years, completes a report form and an online screening questionnaire. This process is essential for gaining insights into developmental history and childhood experiences. Neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism manifest early in life, and gathering information about the individual’s past is crucial for a comprehensive assessment. 

Step 3: Assessment

The assessment is conducted by a clinical psychologist or a highly skilled psychiatrist who diagnoses autism in adults. Throughout the appointment, a comprehensive clinical interview will address various aspects of your experiences to ensure a thorough understanding. Although autism may exhibit similarities to other conditions, our objective is to distinguish between these conditions and autism itself. After completing the assessment, there is time to ask questions for clarification about the outcomes.

Step 4: Diagnostic Report

After the assessment, a comprehensive report will be completed, offering a detailed assessment breakdown along with findings. The outcome presented in the report will be clear and easily understandable and encompass our recommendations. Additionally, the report will include helpful signposting directing towards ongoing support or information services that align with the identified needs and considerations from the assessment. 

Step 5: Ongoing Support 

After completing the autism assessment, whether a diagnosis is established or not, our expert team at Psicon is dedicated to providing guidance through the available support options. Our comprehensive approach includes providing therapeutic services delivered by experienced clinical and counselling psychologists within our wellbeing service. These support options are designed to address your specific needs, fostering a supportive environment for your overall wellbeing. 

Differences between adult and child autism assessments

For children, the same process applies. However, the child’s school must also fill in a report form for the information-gathering process. 

The assessment process for children involves the collaborative expertise of a clinical psychologist, speech and language therapist, occupational therapist, and either a paediatrician or child and adolescent psychiatrist. Additionally, this process encompasses a comprehensive review of your child’s development from your perspective and a school report obtained from their teacher or another appropriate professional. Following the assessment, our team will convene to discuss all findings and promptly present them to you along with the outcome.

On the assessment day, we interact with children playfully, utilising the widely recognised 'gold standard' ADOS-2 for behavioural observation. This method is complemented by thoroughly evaluating a child's development, incorporating insights from the parents' or caregiver’s perspective. Additionally, we obtain a school report from teachers or another appropriate professional. 

Psicon can help you understand your unique mind

Seeking an autism assessment is a crucial step towards understanding and addressing the unique needs of individuals with autism. If you suspect that you or someone you know may be autistic, taking the initiative to book a private autism assessment is a proactive step towards a more informed and supportive future.

Private Autism Assessments for Adults and Children

Dr Ana Mendes
Louis Conradie
Dr Oluwafemi Ogunbona
Dr Daniel William Simmonds
Louise Simpson
Sonet Strijdom

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We're with you at every step

Everyone’s mind is unique. Many of us are neurodiverse. And while the neurological differences that make us individuals can bring challenges, we believe that with understanding, empathy and expert support, everyone can thrive.

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