Assessment and diagnosis is best conducted by clinicians with appropriate training and familiarity with autism. A paediatrician, psychiatrist, psychologist, speech pathologist and occupational therapist, or combinations of these clinicians, may be involved in the assessment and diagnosis of autism. The process should involve:
- Interviews with individuals who know the person from a variety of perspectives
- Observation of the person in a number of different settings, or inquiry regarding an adult’s characteristics across a variety of settings
- A history from the family, school and other relevant settings
- Evidence-based screening tools should be used during both natural and structured observations
The experience of seeking and gaining a diagnosis can vary from person to person. Diagnosis of autism is made on the basis of observed behaviour.
Seeking a diagnostic assessment in Tasmania
Children under 4
Children under the age of 4 who are diagnosed with autism are currently eligible to apply for Helping Children With Autism (HCWA) funding. No new applications for this funding will be accepted after 1 July 2018 due to the expansion of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) for children of all ages.
To be eligible to apply for HCWA, diagnosis must be made by a paediatrician, child psychiatrist, or multidisciplinary team. Private allied health professionals may work collaboratively to assess and diagnose autism. In this case, both a psychologist and speech pathologist must be part of the assessment and diagnosis process. State funded multidisciplinary assessment services are provided the Tasmanian Autism Diagnostic Service (TADS) (for children aged 0-18), and StGiles (for preschool-aged children only).
For more information and referral criteria follow the links to the service websites:
The Raising Children Network provides a good summary of the general process of diagnosis and what to expect when seeking an assessment for your child.
Other age groups
Children over the age of 4 and adults who may seek NDIS funding in the future, should consider the NDIS operational guidelines regarding access. Specifically, ‘autism diagnosed by a specialist multi-disciplinary team, paediatrician, psychiatrist or clinical psychologist experienced in the assessment of Pervasive Developmental Disorders, and assessed using the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) diagnostic criteria’.
Children under the age of 13 may be eligible for Medicare rebates if referred by paediatrician or psychiatrist under the ‘Helping Children with Autism Program: Access to Diagnosis’ plan. Allied health professionals must be registered for Medicare in order for a claim to be made. For details, see the Department of Health’s HCWA information page.
For more information and to discuss the most appropriate pathway for diagnostic assessment for you, contact Autism Tasmania.