Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a recognised clinical diagnosis describing a range of difficulties with social interactions, social communication and social imagination. Adults and children living with Autism will experience a range of different strengths and difficulties ranging from mild attributes to more severe or profound difficulties. How to best manage and live with Autism is unique to each individual.
Why do we offer Autism assessments?
Our Autism Assessment service is comprised of Clinical Psychologists and a Clinical Nurse Specialist who all work and practice both in the public sector (i.e. in the NHS and Social Services) and privately. Through our work, we have noticed the increasing gap in service provision for Autism assessments for both adults and children. Our focus is to try and help meet the need of those who would not be able to access this service through the NHS, or other charity organisations, and would find it helpful to explore the difficulties they are experiencing.
Who we are
We are a team of qualified Clinical Psychologists and Nurses experienced in working with children, adult and family services within the NHS and Social Services. We are passionate about helping people of all ages and their families in understanding whether a diagnosis of Autism might explain your experiences and to use this information to guide future support and/or intervention.
Dr Claire Buky-Webster, Dr Lisa Wilson and Dr Nicole Stokoe offer assessments for people 18 years and above.
Dr Terri Brown, Stephen Chandler and Dr Tinisha Kennedy offer assessments for children and young people from the age of 4 years old.
What we offer
We offer assessments to children and adults from the ages of 4 years and above who are suspected of having Autism (see below for some of the indicators). We have assessment clinics in Southampton, Surrey, London and Hertfordshire. Our assessments involve several different stages, which help us understand whether a person meets the diagnosis of Autism. These include direct clinical assessment and indirect information gathering and analysis.
- Initial Contact: One of our clinicians will take some basic information and arrange a time for someone from the Autism team to contact you. They will send you some questionnaires to complete and send back to us. An Autism team therapist will be allocated to work directly with you and will be your main person of contact throughout the assessment process.
- Stage 1 : We will discuss your reasons for considering an Autism assessment and will take a history of your development. The therapist will also screen for other neurodevelopmental and mental health conditions. Where possible, it is helpful for us to speak to a family member or someone who knew you from birth, to obtain an objective overview of your developmental history. Based on the outcome of this initial conversation, we will discuss with you whether an assessment for Autism would be helpful to you.
- Stage 2: If you decide to go ahead, we will gather more comprehensive information from relevant sources e.g. from your education institution, GP. We will also arrange a time for you to come in for the formal structured interview process, which will involve an assessment tool called the ADOS-2. We will explain more about this to you if we all agree to go ahead with this stage of the assessment.
- Stage 3: Once both the direct and indirect assessment processes have been completed, we will arrange a final appointment to feedback the results. Recommendations to support you in moving forward will be discussed. We will finalise the report with you and then send you a final version of the assessment results and recommendations.
How can I tell if an assessment might be helpful?
As with anything in life, any child or adult with Autism will be different and will experience any difficulties to different degrees. However, people with Autism are generally considered to experience difficulties in three main areas. This is often known as the “Triad of Impairments:”
- Difficulties with social interactions: individuals with Autism often struggle to understand emotions and how to express them. They may struggle to follow rules of social interactions, such as turn taking or standing too close.
- Difficulties with social communication: they often have a very literal sense of language and struggle to understand turns of phrase, jokes or colloquialisms.
- Difficulties with social imagination: they may find it difficult to predict other people’s behaviour, or to understand and respond to how others are feeling. People with Autism can often find emotions overwhelming. Adjusting to change and coping in new situations can be very stressful for people with Autism.
It is of course important to remember that even if you/your child exhibit some of these signs, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have Autism. If you are unsure, do give us a call and we would be happy to answer any questions.
What is the ADOS-2 (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, second edition)?
This is a semi-structured, standardised assessment of communication, social interaction, play, and restricted and repetitive behaviours. It is recommended in the National guidelines for the assessment of difficulties associated with Autism. Only qualified practitioners who have been accredited through a training process are able to administer the ADOS-2. There are four different modules containing different activities. The team will decide which module is the most appropriate for you or your child based on their developmental stage and language skills. Only one module is administered for each person and usually takes around 60 minutes to complete.
Parents are not present during assessments of children. This is to enable the child to engage in the activities without seeking any reassurance or prompts from parents. It also allows us to full assess their interactions and behaviours unaided.
Will a diagnosis be reached at the end of these assessments?
Once the screening conversation and initial assessment have been completed, the practitioner you are working with will arrange to meet with you to share the outcomes. This will be an opportunity to think about the initial findings and to discuss whether further assessment is needed or wanted. A diagnosis would not be given at this stage of the assessment process.
If it is decided to proceed to the second stage of assessment, further structured assessment will be completed. Following this, the assessment team will meet to score the tools and discuss their findings. This can sometimes be arranged for the same day. Using the findings from both the direct and indirect assessment process generally enables the assessment team to reach a conclusion regarding diagnosis. On rare occasions where the results from the interview do not match the findings from the other tools, further information may be required before a firm conclusion can be given. We will then arrange to meet with you again to share the final outcomes of the overall assessment process and to think about recommendations and guidance moving forward.
It is important to note that once a diagnosis of Autism is given, it cannot be rescinded for any reason and will remain with the child/person throughout their adult life. Regardless as to whether your child receives a diagnosis of Autism or not a report will be provided detailing the strengths and weaknesses of your child and some recommendations for support.
How to refer
If you would like to discuss what an Autism assessment entails or arrange for an assessment, please get in touch by either email or call (01420) 540220.