The ASD Assessment Process: What to Expect
Many adults seek a diagnostic assessment as they did not have access to services when they were children. Some individuals feel their symptoms have been misinterpreted previously as behavioural or mental health difficulties. As access to information has increased via modern technology and the internet, adults who have lived with the feeling of being ‘a bit different’ and ‘just not getting social situations right’ are now able to conduct research into their own traits and behaviours and many come across the idea that they may be on the Autistic Spectrum.
Receiving a diagnosis in your adult years can be a mixed experience, many people feel an overwhelming sense of relief as they can finally put a name to all the difficulties they have been facing. Others feel sad that it has taken so many years to receive their diagnosis. Regardless many find it helpful to be able to access support and services they could not previously and get the help and support they need from their friends, families, employers and educators.
The Assessment Process:
ASD is diagnosed by gathering evidence from an individual, their loved one’s and by completing a clinical assessment. Currently, there is no blood test or brain scan that can test for ASD. It is a bit like a jigsaw, gathering pieces of information from different sources to see if the picture looks like ASD or if the symptoms can be better explained by something else, for example, anxiety. In order to provide a ‘gold-standard’ service, we have chosen to use a range of clinically recognised tools. Below is a guide to how our assessments proceed:
An appointment will be arranged at The Edinburgh Practice that is convenient to you. Normally this lasts around 2 hours. To begin with, we may need to complete a short assessment (taking no more than 20 minutes) looking at your language and problem solving skills. This is to rule out any difficulties you may have with learning.
Following this, there will be a structured interview (taking approximately 1hr 30min), asking you questions about your relationships, interests and how you feel about things, combined with some tasks that will be explained thoroughly at the start of the assessment. In order to look at other potential difficulties that may be impacting on how your feeling, the Clinician will take a detailed history of these. It may help to bring along any notes you have to the session.
In the assessment session, the clinician will ask who knows you well that can contribute to the assessment (e.g. parent, sibling, partner, boss). Questionnaires will be given to these individuals with your permission and the Clinician will contact them for more information. We are aware that not everyone will have someone they can ask to be involved in an assessment and this will not prevent you from having an assessment.
Once all of the above information is gathered, you will be provided with feedback on whether or not you meet the criteria for ASD or whether there is another reason you may be experiencing the problems you described in session. We will aim to do this within 2 weeks of your 1st assessment session.
This session gives you an opportunity to ask questions about the assessment and discuss which supports may best meet your needs. For many individuals, the desire to explore whether they have ASD or not will be driven by a current change in mood or circumstances. There will be information to signpost you to relevant support services if indicated.
Also, for many newly diagnosed adults, the impact of chronically misinterpreting social situations and feeling different from others over the years, may have impacted on their self-esteem. Information about local ASD support services and psychoeducational material helping to adjust to a diagnosis of ASD will be given.
If you do not meet the criteria for ASD but it is felt that there is another reason you are experiencing difficulties, this will be discussed thoroughly and you will still be provided with relevant information and signposted to the most appropriate services for support.
A report detailing the assessment and conclusion will be provided to all individuals.
For individuals that meet the criteria for ASD a second report will be given. This will state that they have a diagnosis of ASD and give employers/educators standardised recommendations for support from the National Autistic Society, without relaying any confidential information from the assessment.
Additional sessions or reports can be provided that detail more specific work and educational adjustments. You can discuss the cost of these with the Clinician in the session.
Patients travelling to Edinburgh
It is possible to complete the assessment and feedback session all on one day, with a break in the middle (taking 4 hours in total). You just need to advise this at the time of booking an assessment.