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Autism Assessments

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a pervasive developmental disorder that affects how an individual develops, learns and interact with the world around them. It is characterised by social communication difficulties, repetitive patterns of behaviours, restricted interests and activities, and/or difficulties in processing sensory input.

Autism is a lifelong disorder that presents at or soon after birth, and the symptoms and behaviours associated with Autism are evident in early development. However, the functional impact of these symptoms and behaviours may not be apparent at this stage. The characteristics of Autism can vary significantly between individuals, and the way Autism presents in one individual may be different to how it presents in another. Furthermore, the behaviours associated with Autism can vary within individuals as they grow and develop and respond to various situations and environments in their daily lives.

How is Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosed?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is defined by a complex pattern of unique behaviours and interactions that can vary in manifestation but are representative of the particular diagnostic criteria.

The criteria for ASD from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – Fifth Edition (DSM-5) specifies that people diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder must present with specific and persistent deficits in two main areas, including:

  • Social communication and social interaction, and
  • Restricted, repetitive patterns of interests, activities, or behaviours.

Diagnosis requires that significant deficits in the areas mentioned above exist for each individual; however, people present differently and are affected in each area to varying degrees. No single behaviour is indicative of Autism Spectrum Disorder, and no single behaviour rules out the diagnosis; the significant factor is the pattern of behaviours from the relevant areas.

There is no single test for autism; however, a combination of testing methods and processes can give an accurate Autism diagnosis that will also identify an individual’s strengths and weaknesses in relation to their social, emotional, and behavioural development. Perhaps the most important outcome of a diagnostic assessment is the potential to make informed decisions for you or your child’s social and emotional needs.

Autism assessments at May

Currently, in South Australia, a formal diagnosis of autism requires consensus from two different accredited clinicians (psychologist, speech pathologist, psychiatrist or paediatrician). Assessments can be conducted by a team of two clinicians in one setting (dual assessment) or by two separate individual clinicians in different settings.

Assessments involve interactions with and observations of the individual and gathering information from others, depending on the individual's age; for example, with children, additional information is obtained from caregivers and educators. The information is then carefully considered against the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – Fifth Edition (DSM-5).

The benefit of an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) assessment at May is that Psychologist Dr Annabel Marsh, and Speech Pathologist Ms Caitlin Del Zoppo, are both very experienced diagnosticians who are both approved assessors by Autism SA. Dr Marsh and Ms Del Zoppo pride themselves on providing comprehensive and appropriate diagnoses, placing the highest importance on clients being appropriately diagnosed to ensure that intervention will target the clients’ actual needs. Our diagnosticians have experience in both child and adult assessments.

  • Adult Autism Assessments

    Autism is a lifelong disorder, present from birth and cannot develop in adulthood. However, many individuals with Autism reach adulthood without being diagnosed or are misdiagnosed with other mental health or developmental disorders.