Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Assessment Service
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 ASD will experience a range of different strengths and difficulties ranging from mild attributes to more severe or profound difficulties. Many people live alongside ASD without needing any additional help or support but some people may find it helpful to have an assessment to identify if any recommendations can be made. How to best manage and live with ASD is unique to each individual. Completing an assessment for ASD may support you with understanding how to manage your difficulties better.
Why do we offer Autism Spectrum Disorder assessments?
Our ASD 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.
Our team offer ASD assessment services in London, Hertfordshire, Surrey and Hampshire. Below are the profiles for our core assessment team.
Dr Nicole Stokoe
Dr Stokoe is a Director at Avenue Therapies and manages the ASD assessment service. Dr Stokoe has worked in the NHS for over 16 years alongside delivering private mental health services since 2014. Dr Stokoe is passionate about delivering accessible and meaningful psychological services that provide steps towards a brighter future. Dr Stokoe completed her Clinical Doctorate at the University of Southampton and is a qualified ADOS-2 practitioner.
Dr Lisa Wilson
Dr Lisa Wilson has worked in the NHS since 2005 with people across the lifespan to support with the understanding, formulation and management of mental, behavioural, developmental and physical health difficulties. Dr Wilson completed her clinical doctorate with the University of Birmingham and is a qualified ASD assessor who trained with Hogrefe to deliver the ADOS-2. She is committed to supporting children and their families to make helpful sense of the difficulties being faced alongside recognising strengths that can be built on further.
Dr Robyn O’Connell
Dr Robyn O’Connell has worked in the NHS since 2007 offering mental health support to individuals across the lifespan. Alongside her private practice, Dr Robyn works in an NHS child and adolescent mental health service providing psychological assessment and intervention for children and their families. Dr O’Connell provides Autism Spectrum Disorder assessment in both her NHS and private practice. She completed her Clinical Doctorate at the University of East London and is a qualified ASD assessor in ADOS-2.
Dr Tinisha Kennedy
Dr Kennedy is experienced in carrying out psychological assessment and treatment for a range of mental health problems across the lifespan. As well as providing therapeutic interventions for individuals (that is children, adolescents and adults), Dr Kennedy has extensive experience in working with families and groups. Dr Kennedy currently leads an NHS ASD assessment service alongside her role in Avenue Therapies providing expert consultation and assessment. Dr Kennedy completed her Clinical Doctorate with The University of Surrey and is a qualified ADOS-2 practitioner.
Dr Gillian Wright
Dr Wright has experience of working in specialist services for children, young people and their families. With 13 years experience of working in the NHS across a breadth of services, Dr Wright is committed to delivering assessment in a supportive framework that provide meaningful recommendations. Dr Wright completed her Clinical Doctorate at the University of East London and is an ADOS qualified practitioner.
Dr Terri Brown and Stephen Chandler offer assessments for children and young people from the age of 4 years old in the Hampshire area based near to Itchen Bridge in Southampton. They are highly experienced practitioners who offer a child ASD assessment service.
What we offer
We offer assessments to children, young people and adults from the ages of 4 years and above who are suspected of having ASD (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 team will take some basic information from you and send you our information sheet that outlines the phases of the assessment and the pricing structure. If you would like to make a time to speak with one our assessors about the assessment process in more detail, this can be arranged for you.
- Initial Assessment: We will discuss your reasons for considering an ASD assessment and ask for some further information about your early development and experiences through education and into adulthood (where applicable). The assessor 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. With child and young person assessments, we will be working closely with the core family members as part of the assessment process. Based on the outcome of this initial assessment, we will discuss with you whether the full structured ASD diagnositic assessment is indicated.
- Structured ASD diagnostic assessment: 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. 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?
Whether the difficulties you are experiencing that prompted you to seek an assessment are the result of living with ASD or due to another presenting difficulty, understanding more about this and having support to consider how best to manage and cope with it can be helpful for moving towards your values and life goals. Every child or adult with ASD will be different and will experience any difficulties to different degrees. However, people with ASD 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 020 7112 8834.