How is autism diagnosed?

  1. Home
  2. Blog
  3. How is autism diagnosed?

How is autism diagnosed?

  1. Home
  2. Blog
  3. How is autism diagnosed?

Written by Advanced Speech Pathologist, Christine Bosch.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or autism, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects three main areas of an individual’s life: communication, social interaction and repetitive and restricted behaviours.

Approximately one in every 88 people has autism and it is more common in boys than girls. In 2017, 2.5% of the Australian population had a diagnosis of autism. At that time, the WA Department of Education reported that autism accounted for the highest number of children requiring additional support through Schools of Special Education Needs.

Although the cause of autism is unknown, genetic factors have been identified. Siblings have a 35% higher chance of developing symptoms of autism.

Who conducts an autism assessment?

National Guidelines for the assessment of Autism Spectrum Disorder were announced late 2018 by the Minister of Health. The ‘gold standard’ in terms of diagnosing autism includes a comprehensive assessment by a paediatrician (for children) or psychiatrist (for adults), plus assessments by a psychologist and speech pathologist with specialised training using criteria outlined in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-5).

All three professionals have to be in agreement with the findings of the assessments before the paediatrician/psychiatrist makes the final diagnosis. This is to ensure that the individual is assessed from different points of view. It also helps prevent misdiagnosis.

child blows bubbles with help of therapist

What does an autism assessment involve?

The diagnostic process involves a detailed observation of the individual’s behaviour through a play-based assessment (for children), a language assessment, intellectual assessment, as well as a detailed parent interview.

An individual with autism may also have a language impairment and/or intellectual disability. Severity and support needs are determined by how the social communication or repetitive and restrictive behaviours are impacting on the individual’s ability to function at home, school, at work or in the community.

What are the signs of autism?

Signs of autism can include:

  • Lack of communicative intent (the use of gestures, facial expressions, written or spoken words)
  • Difficulty with the flow of conversation, including reverting conversations back to self- interests, difficulty listening, frequent interruptions or lack of engagement
  • Language difficulties, or difficulty with reasoning and problem solving
  • Speech delays or non-verbal communication
  • Difficulty using and interpreting others’ body language, gestures and facial expressions
  • Problems with play, including difficulties with imaginative and pretend play, as well as engaging in play with peers
  • Difficulty making and maintaining relationships with friends or significant others
  • Difficulty with processing sensory stimuli such as an oversensitivity to noise
  • Attention difficulties
  • Behaviours that are repetitive or ritualistic (i.e. having to complete a ritual task before moving onto another task)
  • Obsessive behaviours
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty with transitions
  • Refusing to go to school or leave the house
  • ‘Black and white’ thinking and inflexibility with rules or routines

If you are concerned that your child may be showing signs of autism, contact your paediatrician and they will make the appropriate referrals based on the findings of their initial assessment

What happens after an autism diagnosis?

Once a diagnosis is confirmed, an individual with autism is eligible for funding for various services relating to school, therapy and assistance in the community. The level of funding they receive will depend upon their needs and the severity of the diagnosis. There is a significant body of evidence that suggests that early intervention is the best solution and leads to the best outcomes in terms of therapy.

girl writes in a book with pink pen

At Therapy Focus, we offer autism assessment services through our trained and highly experiences psychologists and speech pathologists. For more information, or to book an assessment, simply contact us.

girl writes in a book with pink pen
Keep up to date with Therapy Focus
Our Services

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.

You may also like…

therapist touches food in bowl as boy looks on

How can a Speech Pathologist help someone with dysphagia?

Speech pathologists study, diagnose and treat communication disorders, including difficulties with speaking, stuttering and using voice. Because they have so much knowledge about the muscles in the mouth, tongue and neck, they are well placed to help people who have difficulty with swallowing (dysphagia).
Learn More
therapist talks to patient under tarpaulin

Karina takes her expertise to Zimbabwe

Physiotherapist Karina Caldwell travelled to Zimbabwe with Cosmos HealthCare to volunteer as part of a medical team that provided care and support to people in disadvantaged communities near Bulawayo.
Learn More
two man with football player tom liberatore

Jordan meets his heroes

Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist, Joshua Panelo, recently organised for his client, Jordan Jasmins, to attend a football match to watch Jordan’s favourite team, the Western Bulldogs.
Learn More
women next to sign

Therapy Focus goes to California

A partnership between Therapy Focus and AchieveKids in California has seen staff from both organisations take part in a two week international exchange program that aims to provide invaluable learning opportunities.
Learn More
little girl reading book

Play, screen time and sleep for 0-5 year-olds

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released its recommended guidelines for play, screen time and sleep in 0-5 year-olds. Advanced Physiotherapists, Dan Prigmore, summarises the guidelines, providing key takeaways for parents and carers.
Learn More

Mealtime tips for children with autism

Mealtimes can be challenging for parents of children with autism. Therapy Focus Dietitian, Maddie Todd, has put together her top tips for those parents who have to pick their battles when it comes to mealtimes.
Learn More
therapist with boy in wheelchair

FAQ: School Transitions and beyond

Change can be daunting, especially for children with disability undertaking key life transitions such as starting kindy, going primary school or moving into high school. Our therapists have put together some of their more frequently asked questions to get you started on the right path to a smooth transition.
Learn More
therapist and boy do key word sign

The benefits of Key Word Sign

Key Word Sign, formerly known as Makaton, is a simplified form of manual signing and a highly effective form of communication. It builds upon natural gesture and body language, which forms so much of how we communicate day-to-day.
Learn More
therapist tries to feed child

Dietetics and the NDIS

At Therapy Focus, our team of experienced dietitians work closely with other allied health therapists to help children and adults with disabilities achieve their goals.
Learn More