Diagnostic Autism Spectrum Disorder Assessments

Melissa and Jenna are a transdisciplinary assessment team who have a very experienced understanding of the autism spectrum. And the autism spectrum is just that; a spectrum. Over time we have come to understand the different presentations of the autism spectrum including; high functioning forms of ASD, the female presentation, autism in the very early years (under 3 years of age), ASD in adulthood and the broader autism phenotype. We respect and acknowledge that within the diagnostic realm there are many shades of grey and as such we bring our developmental expertise to differentiate between ASD and other developmental disorders or impairments. In SA, diagnosticians are regulated and they must be recognised by Autism SA as having sufficient experience in ASD assessments in order for the diagnosis/outcome to be recognised in the education setting. Both Melissa and Jenna are members of this gold list.

Please see our flow chart below summarizing the available and suitable pathways for an assessment. Further information is also provided below this chart.

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Our assessment process is one of understanding and listening to your concerns, using gold standard diagnostic tools and spending 1-1 time with your child. Most importantly, we then spend time on providing you with feedback and in helping form a pathway forward. We work together as a team to gather as much information as we can during the assessment process in order to ensure a confident and conclusive outcome. We will either rule in or out whether this diagnosis is a good fit, and if ASD is not an appropriate diagnosis we provide an indication of what we think may be a more accurate explanation for your child’s presentation. At present, there are no blood tests, scans or medical exams that can diagnosis ASD and instead we assess for a cluster of behaviours and what functional impact these are having. We assess social skills, emotional development, communication as well as other behavioural indicators such as special interests/passions, daily routines, coping with change and sensory behaviours. We often say; we all have a few pieces of the ASD puzzle but it is whether there are enough pieces of the puzzle to warrant a diagnosis.

Families often ask why a transdisciplinary assessment is recommended as opposed to only having a single assessment or opinion. In South Australia having two or more professionals from different disciplines complete the assessment together means that if it is a positive diagnosis you will immediately be eligible to register with Autism SA for support and your child’s school will be able to put in an application for funding through the department of education (as state guidelines specify that two professionals from different disciplines must agree on the diagnosis for it to be recognised). It also means that the assessment can be more comprehensive as one clinician will spend their time and focus with parents/caregivers and the other directly with your child obtaining valuable observations and completing formal assessments that may be required or which can add more detailed information to the bigger picture (e.g. cognitive or language assessment).

An assessment is scheduled for 3 hours and will consist of:

  • Reviewing background information and prior assessments
  • Reviewing teacher feedback
  • Completing a formal parent/caregiver interview to gather information on your child’s current and historical behaviours
  • Conducting informal play and observations with your child
  • Completion of any formal assessments that may be required
  • Scoring of formal assessment tools
  • Feedback and pathways in moving forward
  • Formal report outlining the process, outcome and recommendations

We offer three locations for service delivery:

Clinic Assessment: The assessment is completed at our rooms. This option might be best suited for families who are happy to travel, feel their child struggles to cope more so when out of the home and so this difficulty may be observed by the assessors or feel that environment is not a significant factor for their child’s presentation. Lastly this option is better suited to adult clients seeking a diagnosis.

Home Assessment: This option might be best suited to families who find it difficult to travel or feel their child can “hold it together” when out but can be themselves when at home.

Childcare/Kindergarten/School Assessment: The assessment is completed at childcare, kindergarten or school with their permission. This may be best suited for families who feel their child’s difficulties are best seen in this social environment. This may also be appropriate when the assessment has been at the request or booked by the child’s school.

A single assessment with either Melissa or Jenna can be sought if your child has already had one opinion completed (e.g., by a Pediatrician or other allied health professional recognised by Autism SA) and thus only a single second opinion is needed. Those seeking an assessment in adulthood are also more likely to only require a single opinion (assessment is for their own personal understanding) unless they are interested in accessing adult services with Autism SA (then a trans-disciplinary assessment would be required). We offer two services for a second opinion;

Second opinion with a Psychologist (Melissa): This may be better suited if there are cognitive/learning concerns.

Second opinion with a Speech Pathologist (Jenna): This may be better suited if there are communication, language, literacy or speech concerns.

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