Understanding the assessment process

Assessments for autism spectrum disorder will vary but there are some common standards and procedures that you should expect to have happen.

Before reaching the assessment stage, your son or daughter has probably been screened for autism, and has shown enough of the red flags to be referred on for a full assessment.

How to prepare

Take along the results of any tests or assessments or screening that your child has previously had.
Try to have filled in all the necessary paperwork before you arrive.

Carefully observe your child before you go to the assessments, and look at the red flags. Take some notes, for example if your child does point, note how many times a day this happens.

Make notes on any words your child says and how the words are used.

It can be upsetting to do this, but it’s best to be 100% realistic about your child. Don’t paint a better picture or say a behaviour is common if it isn’t.

Take lots of items to keep your child busy as you will spend a lot of time talking to the professionals. It’s rare to find great toys in assessment centres – surprisingly.

Don’t go alone, it’s all too much for one person to take in.

The ideal assessment includes:

Behaviour and family history

The assessor should take a family history. This is generally followed by a formal interview about the child’s developmental history.

It is common to use a semi-structured interview too such as:

Autism Diagnostic Interview – Revised ADI-R or the Diagnostic Interview for Social and Communications Disorders (DISCO)

Another common tool is called the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). This is a play-based assessment tool which can be used from children as young as 12 months.

Communication assessments

A speech pathologist may also test your child’s expressive and receptive communications skills. This includes both verbal and non verbal communication and pragmatic language skills, which means how effectively language is being used.

Cognitive Assessments

Older children may be asked to do some IQ testing, used to assess cognitive ability.

Medical assessments

  • Physical examination and history
  • Hearing and vision tests
  • Genetic testing
  • Blood tests
  • Testing for lead
  • EEG

What happens on the day

Generally family members talk to the professionals first of all, this may take over an hour.

Then expect the professionals to spend time with the child, again this can take over an hour.

Usually families then are allowed to go out to have a walk or something to eat before returning to discuss the assessment results in brief with the assessors.

A written report will be provided, this can take up to two weeks to be sent.

National Guideline

Launched in 2018, The National Guideline for the Assessment and Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders is the first, unified approach to the assessment and diagnosis of autism in Australia.

The Guideline provides health professionals with a nationally consistent, step-by-step process to follow. This process spans from the time of referral until assessment results are shared with individuals and caregivers, including suggestions to meet support needs.

For parents and caregivers of children undergoing an assessment, and adults, the Guideline will help you to understand this process and ensure you are receiving appropriate clinical care.  See these links for more information:

For Parents and Caregivers

For Adults Undergoing an Assessment