Autistic Spectrum Conditions / Disorders

About Autistic Spectrum Disorders

Young people with Autistic Spectrum Disorders have qualitative abnormalities in reciprocal social interactions, patterns of communication and restricted, stereotyped patterns of behaviour, interests and activities. These abnormalities are pervasive of the young person's functioning across settings.

Recognition and appropriate diagnosis alongside developing a profile of a young person's strengths and weaknesses is helpful in:

  • Ensuring appropriate support within education
  • Helping families to understand and support young people with these difficulties
  • Helping young people in their understanding of themselves

We offer an objective and holistic approach to helping young people and families understand the difficulties experienced. We establish whether they meet the criteria for an Autistic Spectrum Disorder alongside a comprehensive assessment for:

  • Co-existing emotional, speech and language and learning difficulties
  • Other difficulties that might explain the presenting symptoms

How do we carry out our assessment?

We offer a full assessment of young people’s developmental strengths and weaknesses, through engagement with the young person, their family and other key professionals. 

All assessments are tailored to the needs of the individual and are likely to include interviews with parents / carers and children, gathering information from school (with appropriate consent), collating questionnaire based information, the use of formal assessment tools and observation of the young person at home, in school and in a clinic setting.

Recent guidance from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence Guidance (2011) recommends multi-disciplinary assessment and to this end we offer a package including assessments by:

1. A Child Psychiatrist

The Child Psychiatrist will meet with the young person and their family / carers at home and within the clinic. Their assessment is likely to include:

  • Taking the young person’s family and developmental history
  • Observing the behaviour and interaction of the young person
  • Gathering information from other sources
  • Conducting a more formal assessment of the young person (through tasks, talking and where appropriate, play).

The Child Psychiatrist assesses for potential autistic symptomatology alongside other mental health / developmental difficulties which may be contributing to the young person’s problems.

2. An Educational Psychologist

The Educational Psychologist (EP) will meet with the young person and their parents / carers, most commonly at school. They will discuss the young person’s history and current difficulties.

In addition their assessment is likely to include:

  • Discussion with teachers 
  • Observation of the young person within the classroom
  • Psychometric assessment where appropriate
  • Review of relevant school / educational records

As part of the assessment for ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) the EP considers other learning or emotional problems.

3. A Speech and Language Therapist

The Speech and Language Therapist (SALT) will, most commonly, assess the young person at school. 

They will:

  • observe the young person within school and talk to teachers.
  • meet with the young person for informal discussion and more formal assessments of the use and understanding of language.

If, for any reason, a school visit is not appropriate the Speech and Language Therapist may conduct their assessment at home or be involved in a clinic appointment.

The SALT assesses for the core deficits of ASD and for other communication difficulties which may coexist or explain the young person’s presentation.

The Process of Assessment

A standard approach is taken to the process at the same time as tailoring the assessment to the specific needs and presentation of the young person. 

                

How do we feed back the findings of our assessment?

Specialist assessment is followed by a feedback meeting including all those that have been involved in the assessment. We often invite other relevant professionals involved to this meeting, with appropriate consent from the young person and their family. During this meeting we:

  • Discuss the findings of our assessments, diagnostic issues and the young person's strengths and weaknesses. 
  • Talk about the implications of our findings and plan the way forward.
  • Provide details of sources of additional relevant information, including how to access other support services.

If professionals or families are uncertain about whether we should pursue a full assessment we offer a paper-based exercise reviewing information / assessments already available to help in making this decision. 

Families can chose whether they would like an optional post-diagnostic support meeting. This meeting provides an opportunity for further disussion tailored to the specific difficulties / circumstances of the young person assessed and includes psycho-education about the condition. Families may choose to invite other professionals working with the young person to this session.

Who are the clinicians involved?

All clinicians have extensive experience both in the asssesment of young people with developmental disorders and within their specialist field. Please view additional information through viewing the following links.

Links to organisations that you may find helpful

The National Autistic Society

Asperger East Anglia

Autism Suffolk

Please view / print our leaflet: Assessment for Developmental (Autistic Spectrum) Disorders