How to get an assessment
The characteristics of autism vary from one person to another. In order for a diagnosis to be made, a person will usually be assessed as having had persistent difficulties with social communication and social interaction and restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviours activities or interests since early childhood, to the extent that these "limit and impair everyday functioning".
Children can be diagnosed as autistic when they’re quite young, in some cases from the age of two. But not everyone is diagnosed early in life. It’s quite common for a child to not get their diagnosis until they are older, or even an adult, particularly if they don’t have accompanying learning disabilities.
If you are unsure about whether a child, young person or adult has autism, you could look at the screening tests on the Autism Research Centre’s website.
Some of the main signs that a child may be on the autism spectrum include:
- not drawing their parents’ or others’ attention to objects or events, for example pointing at a toy or a book, or at something that is happening nearby (or a child may eventually do this, but later than expected)
- carrying out activities in a repetitive way, for example always playing the same game in the same way, or repeatedly lining toys up in a particular order
- resistance to change or doing things differently
- emerging difficulties with social interaction and social communication
- a child becoming distressed or overwhelmed especially in busy situations. This may result in them hurting themselves or others.
A more detailed and fuller list the signs and symptoms of autism can be found on the Nice website.
If you think your child may have Autism it is best to discuss your concerns with your Health Visitor (for pre-school children) or GP in the first instance. The Autism diagnosis process is complex and needs to be completed by a team of professionals with different expertise.
Waiting for assessment and potential diagnosis can be a difficult time for young people and parents alike. The National Autistic Society have put together a guide for parents and carers to help them through the pre-assessment and diagnosis stage.