We asked one of our families to answer key questions around what happens during an autism assessment
How did you feel going to the Autism Assessment?
We had mixed feelings about the assessment and whether our son would actually end up with a diagnosis. I’d been worrying about whether he would labelled or miss out on things in the future because of the label. Our concern was also whether the whole ‘autism thing’ would affect how other people saw him and lead to issues at school. In the end we decided it was important to understand what he needed to be happy and for us to know how to support him so we went ahead.
We also thought it could be helpful so he understand more about himself and doesn’t feel different.
Why did you have an Autism assessment?
Our son was starting to struggle at school confidence wise and with making friends and he really didn’t enjoy going to school. He seemed to be getting more anxious about school work and what his teachers were asking him to do.
He was worrying about things other kids weren’t and he seemed to be withdrawing into himself.
His body language changed from happy to sad and nothing we were doing or saying was helping.
The class teacher was starting to pick up him panicking and worrying about his work and he was starting to cry because he didn’t understand what he needed to do.
We looked for someone to bee able to help with his anxiety and confidence and to understand why he was finding school so hard. We didn’t want it to get to the point where he was refusing to go to school. This all lead to the doctor recommending the autism assessment.
What happens during an ASD assessment?
There were a few stages and these were all booked in at the beginning of the assessment.
We met with the psychologist and talked for a couple of hours about our family and our son’s childhood. We answered questions about his development going back to when he was born and even the pregnancy. They appointment was called the ADI-r and the doctor asked us about things our son was good at and things he found difficult.
We chatted about moments that stood out, areas we were worried about and behaviours that drew our attention.
We discussed all sorts from school and family life, his friendships and interests, his passions and turn offs. It was pretty tiring to be honest and intense as we had to go back a long way. We did find it reassuring and therapeutic in a way as well because we were sharing everything.
2 School visit
A member of the assessment team went into the school for a school observation. They watched him in class and with his friends at lunch and I understand they spoke to the teachers. We weren’t involved in this stage so I don’t know too much about it other than the findings and thoughts were included in the report.
3 one to one assessment
We went into the Evolve clinic for an hour long appointment called the ADOS. He really enjoyed this session.
Two ladies played, set challenges and chatted with him. The mood seemed very relaxed and the team were friendly to us both. He said he’d really enjoyed it and I did too as I waited downstairs and had a coffee!
4 Feedback session and report
My husband and I had a video call with the leading Psychologist to go through the assessment and the report. The doctor made her conclusions and was really thorough talking about what they’d seen. She seemed to really understand him and had some great suggestions and observations.
It was also useful to go through each of the areas of the assessment and then to see what this all meant practically.
The report was sent to us and we shared this with school. We were keen for the school to see it and to use it to help support him.
What is Autism Spectrum Conditions or Autism or ASD ?
Our understanding is that if you meet a certain amount of behaviours and they are strong enough then you’ll receive a diagnosis. The professionals probably put it another more complicated way but that’s what I understand.
We weren’t sure if our son would get a diagnosis because he seemed on the whole, to be managed pretty well and often would hide how he felt. Now we know more about the condition we are so proud of him. We know now how much it must take for him to get through a day at school or when things change and he feels uncomfortable.
I think the title autism or being autistic, gives people a specific image of someone and I think the name is too small for what I now understand it to be.
Have you talked about Autism and ASC with your family?
We have always told our children that we are all different and that it’s good to be different.
We say everyone is full of different ingredients; some sweet, some spicy, some healthy, some indulgent, that’s what makes them unique.
We were always really honest about what the therapy was and why it was helpful.
Rather than talk about the assessment itself we have discussed different things we have learnt from the doctors. We know more so feel like we are able to prompt him to share more and anticipate problems and what to do to help him.
Has the assessment helped your family?
It feels like a bit of a relief to be honest because we understand more about how he feels, why he behaves in certain ways and how he sees things.
We have changed the way we parent and we hope we are now more patience. The dynamics in the family have changed because we respond differently and thankfully we feel like we are getting somewhere.
There have been times when it’s been tough, wondering if we did the right thing and what other people would say but we came to realise that the assessment helps him and us in the long term.
Who should you speak to for an Autism assessment?
We asked our GP for a therapy referral then ended up with a private psychologist. The therapy side of things then led to us into having the assessment. It may be different for different families.
How would you help someone looking to have an Autism Assessment?
I think it’s important to talk to the people actually doing the assessment to check you trust them and like their approach.
I’d say do some research so you know what happens and how the appointments work. I’d ask what the report includes and whether it is an MDT (multi disciplinary team) who do the assessment . We found a lot of information online, on local forums and groups as we didn’t have anyone we knew who had been through an assessment. You could also ask the school to see if they know any good companies.
How long does an Autism Assessment take?
Ours took 10 weeks but apparently it normally takes under 8 weeks.
What happens after an Autism Assessment?
After the report and our call with the doctor we sent the report to school.
We read books and found articles and sites that have been useful. We aren’t rushing into anything in terms of having anymore sessions or support as we are managing. The assessment has given us a lot of information and food for thought.
Find out more about the Evolve team
Contact Evolve to find out more about the assessments we offer.