What is Autism?

Autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental condition that affects around 1 in 100 people. People experience autism in different ways. Autistic people may:
  • Experience differences communicating with and relating to other people, and others to them
  • Have differences in how they may develop and maintain relationships
  • Have strong intense interests which affect their day to day lives
  • Have a preference for routine and find adjusting to change challenging 
  • May experience sensory processing differences 
  • In order to meet the criteria for a diagnosis of autism, such differences must be having a clinically significant impact on a person’s functioning.  
Autistic people may also have wider needs and experience mental health difficulties, such as depression and anxiety. Having a diagnosis can be helpful in supporting a person to understand their individual strengths and challenges. A diagnosis can also help people to access more tailored support and self-help strategies.

What to expect at your Autism assessment?

An autism assessment involves gathering a range of different information. Some of this information will be gathered from speaking to you about your experiences, and completing tasks with you. We will also try to gather information about your childhood development. When possible, we will arrange to speak with someone who knew you well as a child, for example a parent or close relative. It may also be helpful for us to speak with someone who knows you well now, for example a partner, friend or other relative.

The assessment involves asking questions about a range of experiences in your life. We appreciate that for some people these may be upsetting or difficult to talk about, and we will make sure to support you throughout the process. 

The assessment takes place over several appointments across a number of weeks. Most people will attend two-four appointments, but the number of appointments can vary according to each person’s circumstances. This means it is not possible to say precisely how long the process will take. However, we will make sure to keep you updated throughout.

Opting in for assessment

When you are close to reaching the top of our waiting list, we will contact you by text to let you know a member of our team will be in contact. When you then reach the top of the waiting list, you will typically receive a phone call from a member of the team to discuss how best to arrange your first appointment. With this confirmed, you will be sent either a letter or email containing further information about your appointment. If you have any questions through this initial process, you can contact our service for assistance.

Your first appointment

For your first appointment, you will meet a clinician who will talk more about the assessment process. They will make sure that you understand what the assessment will involve and confirm that you are happy to continue. They will also ask if you are happy for us to contact a person (or more than one person) who knows you well, to gather further information. We will talk to you about the types of questions we will want to ask them and why. The clinician will then spend time discussing your background and the types of difficulties that you have been experiencing. They will also ask you some questions about your safety and wellbeing. At the end of the first appointment, the clinician you are meeting with will talk to you about the next stages of the assessment. 

Further appointments

Further appointments will usually involve meeting with the clinician from your first appointment again, but also may include other members of the team. These appointments may take place via video or in person, and this will be discussed with you. These appointments can vary in length, but do include regular breaks. We will discuss any individual adjustments you might need. At these appointments, we will ask more about your experiences and may complete some short tasks with you. There are no right or wrong answers when completing these tasks, they will help us to understand how you think.

Possible outcomes of an autism assessment

At the end of the assessment we will meet with you to talk about the outcome.

What happens if I receive an autism diagnosis?

Some of the people that we assess will meet the criteria for an autism condition and will receive a diagnosis. As part of this, an assessment report will be written. This will outline the assessment observations, summarise a person’s individual strengths and include recommendations. 

We offer a short post-diagnostic workshop to people who have been diagnosed by our service as well as a monthly support network group, and a separate support network group for family and friends of people who we have diagnosed. We also host a closed Facebook group providing further information about ASCs and promoting peer support.

What happens if I do not receive an autism diagnosis?

For some people, it may be the case that at the end of an assessment they may not receive a diagnosis of autism. This may be because we think that there is a different explanation for the differences they are experiencing, or that they do not fulfil all the criteria necessary for a diagnosis. If this is the case, we will explain why we have reached the conclusion we have and signpost or refer to wider services if appropriate. 

Unfortunately, in some cases there may not be a clear outcome to a person’s assessment. This might be because there are a range of complicated factors which make the information unclear, or that for various reasons we haven’t been able to gather all the information we need. 

However, whatever the outcome, we will share our understanding of the information we have gathered during the assessment. We will also discuss the different sources of further support that may be available to you. 

Leaving our service

Once your autism assessment has been completed, you will be discharged from our service.

While you are waiting for an assessment 

While waiting for an appointment with our service, it is important this does not prevent you, or those supporting you from accessing other services which may help you during this period. This may include mental health or social care support. Please see the resources tab for a document listing such services. 

Useful links

Follow DAANA on Twitter. Access to a closed Facebook group is offered to those diagnosed via the service.