Autism Spectrum Australia

Diagnosis

/sites/default/files/DAS%20Intake%20Forms%20-%20Website%20MASTER%20AUG%202017-masterJULY14.pdfSome of the frequently asked questions relating to the diagnosis of autism.

Questions

1. What are the early signs of autism?

2. My Doctor suspects that my child may have autism. How can I find out more and / or obtain a confirmed diagnosis?

3. I am concerned about my child’s development, how can I find out more and what should I do next?

4. I suspect that my child may have autism. What should I do next?

5. What implications will Asperger’s have under DSM 5?

6. What are the options for someone about to leave high school or who has recently left?

For an interesting read on the perceived increase in the prevlence and/or diagnosis of Autism, click here to read a Blog by Vicki Gibbs, Aspect National Manager of Research and Assessments.

Can't find what you are looking for? Please contact Aspect customer service on:

1800 277 328 or email us at: customerservice@autismspectrum.org.au

 

Answers

1. What are the early signs of autism?

Autism is a lifelong developmental disabilities characterised by marked difficulties in social interaction, impaired communication, restricted and repetitive interests and behaviours and sensory sensitivities. Some of the following may be the early indicators of autism. However, it is important to note that no single indicator necessarily signals autism – usually a child would present with several indicators from some of the following categories:

  • Behaviour
  • Sensory
  • Communication
  • Social Skills
  • Play

You will find more information in the autism fact sheet: Download Factsheet

The following is only a guide to what your child should typically be doing at 18 – 24 months of age:

  • Shows interest in his / her siblings or peers
  • Brings you items to show you
  • Follows your gaze to locate an object when you point
  • Engages in “pretend play” (e.g. feeding a doll or making a toy dog bark)
  • Uses many spontaneous single words and some-two word phrases

The effects of autism can often be minimised by early diagnosis and with the right interventions, many children and adults with autism show marked improvements. To this end, if you are concerned that your child may be showing early signs of autism, it is important that you consultant with a qualified medical professional. This would be your General Practitioner and / or Paediatrician in the first instance*.

You may be interested to know that Aspect also run a number of “Early Days” workshops, which are designed to cater for parents or carers of a young child who is newly diagnosed with autism or undiagnosed. If you think that this may be of benefit to you or if you would just like to talk about any of this information in further detail, just give our dedicated customer service team a call on 1800 Aspect (1800 277 328).

Download the Early Days Workshops Flyer.

An early diagnosis followed by early intervention provides the best opportunities for a child with autism.

*If your medical professional suspects autism, it is possible for them to make a referral to Aspect Assessments. 

Read more about Aspect Assessments.

Return to top

2. My Doctor suspects that my child may have autism. How can I find out more and / or obtain a confirmed diagnosis?

Aspect Assessments conducts comprehensive evidence-based assessments for autism in children, adolescents and adults. The assessments are provided by Clinical Psychologists and Psychologists with experience and post-graduate training in the diagnosis of autism. The assessment process includes:

  • Comprehensive parent interview using the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised
  • Formal observation using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule
  • Assessment of functional skills (everyday living skills and independence)
  • Informal observation in natural settings (preschool or school) where possible
  • A feedback session outlining the assessment outcomes, including an opportunity for questioning and clarification
  • Recommendations for intervention and follow-up
  • Written report within one month of the assessment date.

Children and adolescents who have already been diagnosed with autism can also be referred to the Aspect  Assessments for review assessments at times of transition and for cognitive or developmental assessments. Aspect Assessments also conduct assessments of speech and language, motor skills and sensory difficulties. 

Read more about Aspect Assessments

Download the Aspect Assessments Intake Form

Download the Aspect Assessment Fee Schedule

*Consultation fees apply to Aspect Assessments.  Some private health insurance companies provide rebates for psychological services. Please contact your health insurance provider to determine whether you are eligible for a rebate. Alternatively, parents of children under 13 years who are referred to Aspect for an autism assessment by a paediatrician or child psychiatrist can access a rebate through Medicare. Referrals must be made prior to the appointment in order to receive the Medicare rebate.

Please contact us or see your Medical Practitioner for further information.

If you would like more information on any of the above, please contact our dedicated customer service team on: 1800 Aspect (1800 277 328)

Return to top

3. I am concerned about my child’s development, how can I find out more and what should I do next?

Medical & Health Issues – Where to start?

As part of the ongoing medical care of your child, it is important to have a good local doctor or general practitioner (GP) with whom you feel comfortable, and who listens to you and your family. General practitioners make referrals, when necessary, to specialists. If you have a concern about your child’s development, you have the right to be referred to a specialist.

When consulting doctors, it is important to establish good communication. You should be able to talk freely about your child’s condition and needs, about your needs and feelings, and about the situation for the family as a whole. The doctor or specialist should be able to explain things in detail and in words that you can understand.

Make a list of the things that are concerning you about your child, and write down questions. Take the list with you when you see the doctor. Take your partner, a friend or relative with you to the appointment to provide support and help in understanding the discussion. They can also share the responsibility of weighing the advice and making any decisions. A helpful website which contains links to many other consumer health websites is at: library.scgh.health.wa.gov.au/consumer.aspx.

Many families who have a child with a disability or developmental delay find it helpful to regularly see a paediatrician. Paediatricians are doctors who specialise in caring for children. They understand about the nature, severity, long-term outlook and causes of disability in children, and they manage any complications that may arise. Access to paediatricians is via referral from your local GP.

Searching for a Diagnosis

Some conditions are evident at birth or soon after. Others can occur as a result of an accident or sudden onset of illness. For many families, the identification of a child’s disability is a gradual process that occurs over many months or years. For some children, a clear diagnosis of a specific condition or disability (or multiple disabilities) is possible. For others, the diagnosis of a specific condition may not be possible or may be reliant on further tests and observations in future years.

It is often wise to have further assessments as your child grows, as technology and expertise are constantly advancing. Keep a diary or log of your child’s development and behavioural characteristics as over time it becomes difficult to remember and report things accurately at future medical appointments.

If your child’s health care professional suspects that your child may have Autism, Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) offer a range of support services that may help,  including Aspect Assessments.

Read more about Aspect Assessments

If you would like more information on any of the above, please contact our dedicated customer service team on: 1800 Aspect (1800 277 328)

Return to top

4. I suspect that my child may have autism. What should I do next?

If you suspect that your child may have autism, it is important that you consult with a qualified medical professional. This would be your General Practitioner and / or Paediatrician in the first instance.

Many families who have a child with a disability or developmental delay find it helpful to regularly see a paediatrician. Paediatricians are doctors who specialise in caring for children. They understand about the nature, severity, long-term outlook and causes of disability in children, and they manage any complications that may arise. Access to paediatricians is via referral from your local GP.

For many families, the identification of a child’s disability is a gradual process that occurs over many months or years. For some children, a clear diagnosis of a specific condition or disability (or multiple disabilities) is possible. For others, the diagnosis of a specific condition may not be possible or may be reliant on further tests and observations in future years.

It is often wise to have further assessments as your child grows, as technology and expertise are constantly advancing. Keep a diary or log of your child’s development and behavioural characteristics as over time it becomes difficult to remember and report things accurately at future medical appointments.

If your child’s health care professional suspects that your child may have Autism, Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) offer a range of support services that may help, which include Aspect Assessments.

Aspect Assessments conduct comprehensive evidence-based assessments for autism  in children, adolescents and adults. The assessments are provided by Clinical Psychologists and Psychologists with experience and post-graduate training in the diagnosis of autism.

Read more about Aspect Assessments

If you would like more information on any of the above, please contact our dedicated customer service team on: 1800 Aspect (1800 277 328)

Return to top

5. What implications will Asperger’s have under DSM 5?

The key changes in relation to an Asperger’s diagnosis under the new DSM 5 are as follows:

-           The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) was released in May 2013. There are significant changes proposed for the diagnostic classification of autism in DSM5. The changes are based on research findings and clinical experience with one of the aims being to improve diagnostic accuracy.

-           There is only one diagnostic category under DSM-5. The diagnosis - autism – replaces the three previous autism diagnostic categories of Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (including Atypical Autism).

-           The domains of impairment are reduced from three areas of impairment (Social Interaction, Communication and Restricted and Repetitive Patterns of Behaviour Interests and Activities) to two areas of impairment (Social Communication/Social Interaction and Restricted and Repetitive Patterns of Behaviour Interests and Activities).

-           In order to meet criteria for autism under the DSM-5, individuals must satisfy all three Social Communication/Social Interaction symptoms and at least two of the four symptoms listed under Restricted and Repetitive Behaviours, Interests and Activities i.e. at least five out of the total seven symptoms.  The minimum symptom requirement under DSM-5 is higher than the previous DSM-IV-TR requirement.

-           There has been some controversy around the possible implications on diagnostic outcomes of the DSM-5. Some studies are indicating that a significant number of children who would have met criteria under DSM-IV-TR will no longer meet criteria under DSM-5. The American Psychiatric Association responded by publishing a media release stating that field testing for DSM-5 “does not indicate that there will be any change in the number of patients receiving care for autism in treatment centres--just more accurate diagnoses that can lead to more focused treatment”. No definitive statement can be made at this stage. Further research will shed more light on the implications for diagnostic outcomes.

-           DSM5 states that any individual with a well-established diagnosis of autism, Asperger’s or Pervasive developmental Disorder – not Otherwise Specified, should be given the diagnosis of autism.

The most important thing to remember is that there is now and there will always be a need for the provision of educational, social, medical and therapeutic services for those who are on the autism spectrum journey.

Aspect provides a wide range of services for children and adults who have autism, including but not limited to:

  • Family Initiatives
  • Aspect Assessments
  • Building Blocks – Early Intervention
  • Educational Outreach
  • Schools for children with autism
  • Research
  • Behaviour Intervention Service
  • Behaviour support
  • Recipe for success – Parent training for challenging behaviour (across NSW)

6. What are the options for someone about to leave high school or who has recently left?

There are many options for someone with autism once they leave school. In terms of further education and training, some young people with autism are able to go to university and complete tertiary degrees with some support. Others may pursue a traineeship or apprenticeship or additional vocational studies. In terms of employment, some people with autism are able to work in open employment while others will need support through programs such as Transition to Work or Disability Employment Services to obtain suitable employment. Some young people with autism may not be able to work in open employment settings and are more suited to supported employment options. The difficulty for many parents and young people is knowing which option is the most realistic and suitable pathway. Finding information about the various services and supports available can also be challenging.

A comprehensive assessment around the time of this transition can provide important information that will be helpful in making decisions. Aspect Assessments conduct review assessments that include a current measure of autism symptoms, learning ability and everyday living skills. This allows for a tailored profile of the young person’s strengths and weaknesses to be developed, including areas that will benefit from continued intervention into adulthood to help them achieve their potential. We are also able to provide information regarding the various supports and services available in the young person’s local areas. 

Read more about Aspect Assessments

If you would like more information on any of the above, please contact our dedicated customer service team on: 1800 Aspect (1800 277 328)

Return to top

Diagnosis