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What are the early signs of autism?

Autism is a lifelong developmental condition 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

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 consult 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).

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.

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 (ADI-R)
  • Formal observation using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS2)
  • Assessment of functional skills (everyday living skills and independence)
  • 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.

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.

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.

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.

For more detailed information and support post-diagnosis, the Autism Advisor Program offers FREE, impartial and evidence-informed information and support to the parents and carers of children in the 0-7 age range who may have autism or have received a diagnosis of autism.

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 developmental condition or developmental delay find it helpful to regularly see a paediatrician. Paediatricians are doctors who specialise in caring for children. They understand 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 developmental condition 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.

For more detailed information and support pre-diagnosis, the Autism Advisor Program offers FREE, impartial and evidence-informed information and support to the parents and carers of children in the 0-7 age range who may have autism or have received a diagnosis of autism.

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.

Which assessment should I choose?

My Early Development assessments

My Early Development assessments are for very young children (under 2 years) where parents are concerned about their developmental progress. This assessment provides information about the child’s functioning across all developmental areas and also determines whether or not early signs of autism are present.

Autism Assessment

The purpose of the Autism Assessment is to determine whether an individual meets criteria for autism and to provide information about their presentation and support needs. This assessment is suitable for individuals who have never been diagnosed with autism before or where there has been conflicting opinions expressed by professionals and clarification is sought. Autism Assessments can be used to assist in applications for funding (e.g. NDIS eligibility, Disability Support Pension, school supports) and include information to assist with support planning.

Review Assessment

A review assessment is for an individual previously diagnosed with autism. These assessments are very useful at times of transition e.g. when commencing primary school or high school or post-school planning) or to assist in applications for funding (e.g. NDIS eligibility, Disability Support Pension, school supports). They are designed to provide updated information about an individual’s strengths and challenges and include recommendations to assist with support planning. Read more about Review Assessments.

How is autism diagnosed?

The aim of the diagnostic assessment (Autism Assessment) is to determine whether an individual meets the criteria for autism and to provide information about their presentation and support needs.

The diagnostic process includes assessment of social and communication skills, and restricted and repetitive interests and stereotyped patterns of behaviour.

The diagnostic assessment includes:

  • A comprehensive parent interview using the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R)
  • Formal observation using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule - Second Edition (ADOS 2)
  • Assessment of adaptive functioning (everyday living skills and independence)
  • Information from preschool or school staff
  • A feedback session outlining the assessment outcomes, including an opportunity for questioning and clarification
  • Recommendations for services that will best serve the individual needs of the person receiving the diagnosis
  • Summary report within one month of the assessment date (full reports are also available at an additional cost)

For someone who has autism, a diagnosis can help them and those close to them to understand the behaviours that were isolating, confusing and often upsetting.

Young children who are diagnosed with autism are able to access the types of services that can significantly improve their prospects for a meaningful life (early intervention). Adolescents and adults, who may have disguised or compensated for their communication or other impairments prior to the diagnosis, are able to access services that will support their ability to interact socially, improve their employment opportunities and their ability to have meaningful relationships.

Review assessments are conducted for individuals already diagnosed with autism where current information is required e.g. at times of transition, to support funding applications, to access the NDIS.

Review assessment includes:

  • Formal observation using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule - Second Edition (ADOS 2)
  • Interview with parents/carers
  • Information from preschool or school staff via questionnaire or phone interview (where applicable)
  • Assessment of adaptive functioning (everyday living and independence skills)
  • Recommendations for intervention and follow up
  • Written report within one month of the assessment date

A cognitive assessment (IQ test) can also be included.

Who will conduct the assessment?

At Aspect, Autism Assessments and Review Assessments are conducted by Clinical Psychologists and Psychologists with experience and post-graduate training in the diagnosis of autism.

Where is the assessment conducted?

Aspect Assessments has locations in Frenchs Forest, Baulkham Hills, Flemington (Melbourne), and Alstonville (Far North Coast).

How do I refer myself or my child to Aspect Assessments?

You can refer yourself or your child to the service by completing the Aspect Assessments Adult Intake Form or Aspect Assessments Child Intake Form and emailing to assessments@autismspectrum.org.au.

(NOTE: If you have multiple large files (over 10MB total), please send as separate emails).

Document Icon Form

Aspect Assessments Adult Intake form

Download and complete an intake form and return to assessments@autismspectrum.org.au

Our intakes officer will contact you within 5 working days

Document Icon Form

Aspect Assessments Child Intake form

Download and complete an intake form and return to assessments@autismspectrum.org.au

Our intakes officer will contact you within 5 working days

Do I need a referral letter?

A formal referral letter from a medical doctor is required to access Aspect assessment services.

A referral letter from a private Paediatrician or Child Psychiatrist is essential if you want to claim a Medicare rebate for the assessment (see below for further information on eligibility).

What is the cost for an assessment?

Fees vary according to the type of assessment. Please refer to the intake forms.

Can I get a rebate on the cost of the assessment?

People with private health insurance may be eligible for a rebate from their provider and should contact them for further details. Children under 13 who are referred to Aspect for an autism assessment by a private Paediatrician or Child Psychiatrist are eligible for a partial rebate through Medicare under the Helping Children with Autism Package (approx. $340.00). If you are planning to apply for a rebate through Medicare a written referral letter from the private Paediatrician or Child Psychiatrist must be provided to Aspect prior to the day of assessment.

How long will I have to wait for an assessment?

The length of waiting lists varies, usually from 5-6 weeks.

What will happen after the assessment?

Within a month of the assessment day, a report is provided to the client/parents/carers as well as the referring agency/practitioner. The report includes recommendations and referral to appropriate agencies/service providers.

What if I have further questions after I receive the report?

At the end of the feedback session, or upon receiving the written report, you may have further questions for the clinician. If this is the case, you should always contact the clinician again, and have your queries addressed. Sometimes it can be hard to take in all of the information provided at once, so don't hesitate to contact the clinician if you need to.

For more detailed information and support post-diagnosis, the Autism Advisor Program offers FREE, impartial and evidence-informed information and support to the parents and carers of children in the 0-7 age range who may have autism or have received a diagnosis of autism.

Forms

Document Icon Form

Aspect Assessments Adult Intake form

Download and complete an intake form and return to assessments@autismspectrum.org.au

Our intakes officer will contact you within 5 working days

Document Icon Form

Aspect Assessments Child Intake form

Download and complete an intake form and return to assessments@autismspectrum.org.au

Our intakes officer will contact you within 5 working days

Phone us to discuss how we can help you.

Call 1800 277 328

Send us a message and we'll get back to you.

Enquire with Autism Spectrum Australia
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