How to get a diagnosis.
Speak to your GP, who can refer your child for an assessment. Other professionals can also refer you on to a specialist.
If your child is pre-school age, your GP or Health Visitor might do a screening check called ‘CHAT’ (Checklist for Autism in Toddlers). This does not give a diagnosis but indicates if your child may have ASD.
If your child is of school age, you might want to make an appointment to see the school SENCO (Special Education Needs Co-Ordinator). Teachers may have also seen behaviours that may support you in pursuing a diagnosis for your child.
Paying for a private assessment may reduce waiting times but costs can vary hugely – ask several services about costs, what is covered by the cost and any follow-up service provided.
Some local authorities do NOT accept the results of private diagnosis. They might insist on NHS diagnosis before providing services to support your child.
For this reason we recommend that you stay on the NHS waiting list even if you have already received a private diagnosis.
Once referred, you may see one specialist or a team of professionals such as a paediatrician, clinical psychologist, educational psychologist, speech and language therapist, psychiatrist and/or occupational therapist.
The specialists will ask you questions about your child. It’s a good idea to write down any concerns that you have. Think about:
- How they behave at home with family
- How they behave with strangers
- Their physical development
- How they play
- Their speech
- Their health (sleep, eating, toileting)
After that they may spend time watching your child to see how they behave with others and alone. If your child is already at pre-school or school, they may be observed in the classroom. Other tests may include examinations for physical problems or tests to check their level of understanding.
Sometimes there’s a delay in giving a diagnosis. This is because professionals are unsure and need to wait and see. Don’t worry about this because it is important to get the right diagnosis for your child.
Even if they are not sure whether your child has autism, they will be able to say what their difficulties are and give recommendations for the extra help they will need.
Once you get a diagnosis
The professionals that you see will give you a written diagnosis. Once you have a written record of your child’s difficulties, you can follow these up later if necessary.
The report may include:
- Clear diagnosis
- Contact details if you have any questions
- How your child may be affected
- How you can support your child
- What other support they will need
If you don’t agree with the diagnosis
You may have a diagnosis that you don’t agree with or you may be told that your child does not have ASD.
If this happens, you can ask for a second opinion. Be aware that it may reach the same conclusion as the original diagnosis.
There are several ways to get a second opinion:
- Go back to your GP, explain why you are not happy and ask for your child to be referred elsewhere for a second opinion. The GP does not have to do this, but it is good practice.
- Referral to a tertiary service
If the team/professional who assessed your child feels that they are a complex case, they may be willing to refer your child onto a ‘tertiary level’ service (a specialist level). This may be outside your local area and funding may delay this process.
- Pay for a private diagnosis
Some local authorities don’t accept private diagnosis. They may insist on an NHS diagnosis before providing services and support to your child.
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