Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is one of many neurodevelopmental conditions. A neurodevelopmental condition affects the development and functioning of the brain and nervous system. Examples of neurodevelopmental conditions include Autism, ADHD, specific learning disabilities (like dyslexia and dyscalculia) and may also include intellectual disabilities.
Autism is typically identified through a combination of behavioural observations and diagnostic assessments, observations of the individual to be able to see how it is that they interact with an assessor, their understanding of emotions, their relationships and their part in them, as well as whether they may be experiencing repetitive or sensory seeking behaviours or feelings.
An Autism assessment is usually comprised of a couple of different parts:
Developmental Screening: Healthcare providers may conduct developmental screening tests to identify any delays in developmental milestones such as language, social interaction, and motor skills.
Diagnostic Assessments: If a child is suspected of having autism, usually their paediatrician will refer the child to allied health professionals for a diagnostic assessment. This assessments may include standardised tests (like the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule or ADOS, or a cognitive assessment - also known as an IQ test), as well as questionnaires, and observations of the child, usually in a clinic environment.
The allied health practitioners will then compare the information they have gathered and observed about the child and compare this information with the diagnostic criteria. In Australia the diagnostic criteria most commonly used is from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - Fifth Edition - Text Revision (DSM-5-TR).
Family History and Medical Evaluation: The paediatrician and/or allied health assessors may also evaluate the child's family history and conduct a medical evaluation to rule out any medical conditions that could be causing the symptoms.
Multi-Disciplinary Evaluation: In some cases, a multidisciplinary evaluation may be necessary, involving a team of specialists from different fields such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, and behaviour analysis.
Hopscotch and Harmony undertakes assessments from something called a neurodiversity affirmative perspective. The neurodiversity diversity affirmation perspective views Autism as a natural variation in the human brain, rather than as a disorder or a disease. This perspective celebrates the diversity of human thinking styles and recognises that individuals with autism have unique strengths and abilities that should be valued and supported, rather than viewed as deficits that we should be aiming to cure.
Individuals with Autism may have different communication styles, sensory sensitivities, and ways of processing information, and providing accommodations and support to help them thrive.
If you suspect your child may have Autism, it’s best to first speak to your GP and then a paediatrician. Once you have a referral for an assessment, please reach out to use to make an inquiry about an assessment so that we can help you and your child better understand one another.