Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by social communication and interaction difficulties and unusual patterns of behaviours and interests. It affects almost 2% of children and is about 4 times more common in boys than in girls.
Your child’s Paediatrician (or Child Psychiatrist) may have recommended an Autism Assessment if they are:
having difficulty initiating and responding to social interactions
not using eye contact, facial expressions or gestures the same way as others
experiencing problems with friendships or other social relationships
engaging in repetitive behaviours
struggling with change or appearing rigid and inflexible in their behaviours
showing restricted and intense interests or preoccupations
having sensory difficulties
In addition to the social and behavioural symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder, it is common for children with this condition to have trouble with other areas of their development, such as their motor abilities, language skills and cognitive functions. As the word ‘spectrum’ suggests, there is great variability among these children, both in the way their symptoms present and their severity. Other neurodevelopmental, psychological and neurological conditions also frequently co-occur with Autism Spectrum Disorder, which adds to the diversity of presentations in this population.
Autism Assessments conducted by Clinical Neuropsychologists are detailed and comprehensive. They not only offer an expert opinion about whether your child’s history and presentation are consistent with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder but provide valuable information of your child’s thinking, learning, social, emotional and behavioural strengths and weaknesses. This information is used to make individualised recommendations and guide a treatment plan to best suit your child’s needs. As Clinical Neuropsychologists, we understand that neurodevelopmental disorders commonly overlap and co-occur. We are skilled at differentiating between common disorders of childhood and adolescence and considering the many factors that can contribute to a child’s presentation. Rather than simply confirming or refuting a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, a neuropsychological assessment will also reveal any other conditions or factors contributing to your child’s presentation that may require management.
Our assessments include a detailed parent interview to understand your child’s development and current presentation/difficulties, questionnaires completed by parents and teachers, and comprehensive one-on-one testing with your child to assess their thinking skills, social and emotional functioning and behaviour. When Autism Spectrum Disorder is suspected, the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule – 2nd Edition (ADOS-2) is usually included as part of the one-on-one testing process.
Assessment for Autism Spectrum Disorder is usually a multidisciplinary process. In addition to our assessment, your child’s Paediatrician (or Child Psychiatrist) will also likely request a speech and language assessment to understand your child’s core language and pragmatic skills. Once your Paediatrician has gathered the opinions of multiple clinicians (e.g., neuropsychologist, speech pathologist), they will make a final call on a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.