ASSESSMENT & DIAGNOSIS
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a term used to cover what were previously a wide range of conditions which shared common areas of difficulty, including Autism and Asperger’s. ASD exists along a range or “spectrum” with some individuals experiencing more severe difficulties than others. Autism can present itself very differently between men and women so it's important to consult specialists.
At QUESTA we are able to provide a high quality assessment and post diagnostic support for people diagnosed with ASD and their families. Our aim is to make day to day living easier.
The common symptoms of ASD fall into three categories:
Finding it hard to understand what others are thinking or feeling
High anxiety in social situations
Difficulty making friends or preferring to be on your own
Being unaware of personal space
Disliking change, feeling more comfortable with routine
Appearing rude or uninterested in others without meaning to
Finding it hard to identify and communicate feelings
Taking things literally
Repetition of set words or phrases (echolalia)
Avoiding eye contact
Being unable to adapt the tone and content of speech to different situations
Sensory sensitivity, rigidity in behaviour
Over- or under-reacting to situations
Other signs of ASD
Some of the other common signs of ASD are having particularly narrow interests, displaying repetitive behaviours, having difficulty coping with change and hypo- or hyper-sensitivity.
Many people go through life feeling somehow ‘different’ or that they don’t fit in and wonder why. If that’s the case you may wish to obtain a formal diagnosis; it is the only way to know for sure if you are have an Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) and the diagnosis can help you and the people around you understand the condition and cope.
What is the point of a diagnosis, is it worth it?
A thorough and timely assessment may be very helpful because:
• It may help others close to you understand why you find certain things difficult;
• Getting the right diagnosis (particularly if you have been wrongly diagnosed with another condition or mental health problem) means accessing the right guidance and helps others to understand your needs.
• It may help you to access appropriate services and benefits.
• It means that informed employers, colleges and universities can make reasonable adjustments to make the your environment more user-friendly.
How is ASD diagnosed?
We offer a recognised assessment and diagnosis service for Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASCs)/Asperger’s syndrome. These assessments can help you to better understand your own strengths and difficulties. It may be beneficial for you to spend some time before your assessment considering how you would like your life to be different or what you would like to be doing which you currently aren’t, e.g. making friends, having a more varied job or living more independently. These goals or aims can help inform how we consider making recommendations or supporting you following the assessment. We use formal assessment measures as recommended by The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE).
There are 5 stages to the assessment process:
Initial telephone conversation following an enquiry.
This gives you a chance to speak to a psychologist and ask any questions that you may have. If you choose to book an appointment for an initial screening session following this conversation you will be sent a few questionnaires to complete. These will then need to be brought to the initial assessment or emailed beforehand.
Initial screening session.
This session will last for around 90 minutes and will include a clinical interview and discussion of the completed questionnaires. At the end of this session the psychologist will be able to tell you whether a full assessment is necessary based upon your questionnaires and their clinical expertise. You can then decide whether, if clinically necessary, you wish to embark on the formal assessment process.
Formal Assessment for Autism Spectrum Conditions.
A formal assessment will involve the completion of further psychometric measures and clinical observations. This usually takes two further 90 minute sessions. It will also be possible to discuss any further assessments if clinically required, for example, a cognitive assessment, ADHD or a differential diagnosis which may incur an additional cost.
All of the measures will then be scored and interpreted.
A report will be written detailing the results and whether or not you meet criteria for a diagnosis of ASC. Recommendations about the next steps will be made. This involves considerable work ‘behind the scenes’ and is reflected in the costing of the assessment package.
Diagnostic Outcome session.
This session is designed to share the outcome of diagnosis (whether or not you meet criteria for an ASC), go through the results of the assessment process as detailed in the report. Recommendations will be discussed and any changes to the report can be made. This report is then sent to you, the client. Further help and support that we are able to provide or help that can be provided by other services can also be discussed.
Help and Support
There is no “cure” for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Some interventions can be useful in improving day to day life by helping with communication skills, education and social skills. It is very common for people with Autism to experience difficulties such as anxiety disorders, particularly OCD, and depression and low self-esteem. There may also be long-term post traumatic stress. The type of approach which will be most helpful can be discussed with the practitioner conducting the assessment as they will have an in-depth understanding of the difficulties that you and your family are experiencing.