autism assessment

My Child is going for an Autism Assessment – What are the Professional Looking For?

If your child has been referred for an Autism assessment it can be a daunting prospect. It is difficult to know what professionals are looking for and what it all means. It is usually because there concerns about their ability to interact and communicate.

Why has my child been referred for an Autism Assessment?

Let me be straight with you, usually a child is assessed because there concerns about certain areas of their development. A speech and language therapist will refer if they are worried about your child’s ability to interact and communicate with others or because their play skills might be different from other children of the same age. An SLT might also refer if your child is showing some atypical or difficult behaviours.

Who will be at the Autism Assessment?

Autism assessment will involve a child development team – two or more professionals which could be made up of, a paediatrician, a speech and language therapist, a psychologist, an occupational therapist, or a physiotherapist. Although it can seem like there are a lot of people involved, it is good to gather the opinions of as many professionals as possible. They will all be looking at the results from slightly different viewpoints and will challenge each other’s thought processes to come to a more robust outcome.

What will happen during the Autism Assessment?

During your assessment, the child development team will ask you lots of questions and will be observing your child’s behaviour. in order to make a diagnosis of Autism – your child must show difficulties in all three of these areas.

  • Communication

    • This could be in their understanding of words, following instructions and interpreting other people’s  gestures. communication can also relate to your child’s expressive language; the types of sentences they are using and the ay their speech sounds.
  • Social interaction

    • This means how your child responds to others, their interest in interacting with the people around them and the purpose of their interactions. Professionals will also be observing ‘how’ the interaction is taking place and will be looking at behaviours such as eye contact and communicative gestures.
  • Rigid or inflexible thinking

    • This means how they are playing and using their imagination – often children with autism with demonstrating repetitive or stereotyped play. They might prefer to follow certain patterns or rituals, or have overfocused or unusual interests.

A person with autism can have more difficulties in one particular area, but all three will form part of the diagnosis. Most children with Autism also have some issues with sensory integration, their senses constantly sending them confusing messages. Children often have challenges with sleeping and can be highly selective in their choice of food.

Remember, whatever the outcome, it will not change who your child is. They are still your baby, with the same likes, dislikes, smiles and cries. If your child has been given a diagnosis and you are confused about next steps, contact the National Autistic Society  for more information and support.

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