Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Assessments

You are most likely searching this page because you think that you or a family member may have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). An ASD assessment can determine whether an individual meets the diagnostic criteria for a formal ASD diagnosis. A formal diagnosis may assist you or your family member to get much needed support or accomodations at home, school or work. In some instances, a formal diagnosis of ASD Level 2 or 3 may enable an individual to apply for NDIS funding to access recommended support and treatment.

ASD may present differently in children vs adults so we have listed some common signs that an individual may benefit from an ASD assessment in each age group.

Communication,  social difficulties and repetitive/ritualistic behaviours may be signs of ASD in children:

Communication Issues

Disruptiveness, acting up, zoning out when the child is required to listen for longer periods of time (e.g., instructions for a game, teacher speaking, a friend sharing their experience of an event). This will differ with each age group, so using same age peers as a frame of reference could be helpful.

Not-quite-relevant responses – some children learn to mask their communication difficulties very well by picking out the few words that they do understand and giving their best shot at responding to those. If a child’s responses often seem to only somewhat relate to the question, probing deeper (“describe in your own words what I asked you/what was the story about” etc.) will give a clearer picture of their level of comprehension.

Over or under-developed speech – late speech development and/or selective mutism, “staccato” speech, idiosyncratic language (describing trousers as “leg sleeves”). Again, using the child’s peers (ideally, from outside the immediate family environment) as a baseline is a good way to determine where they fit in. Either extreme – late to develop speech, very simple, short utterances or “little professor”, overly-formal speech are all potential indicators.

Flat affect – limited range of emotional expression or presenting older/with adult mannerisms;
poor or limited eye contact, preference for side-by side interactions and activities instead of face-to-face.

Social Difficulties:

Being consistently overfamiliar or overly shy with new people regardless of circumstances.
A clear preference for spending time on their own and lack of awareness of other people.

Being very extroverted and enjoying being with people but experiencing difficulties because they don’t have ability to “read the room” or lack flexibility. A child may appear bossy because they don’t understand unwritten rules of socialisation, like turn-taking, waiting etc.

Habitually becoming ‘fixated’ with a certain topic or activity and will spend much time on this favourite task.

Difficulty adapting to changes in routine or not knowing what is happening next, which can sometimes trigger verbal or physical aggression.

Interactions that appear unkind or rude to others, due to difficulties with expressive communication and body language. Individuals with ASD can sometimes appear “blunt” when they are simply trying to share their views honestly without intent to cause harm.

Incongruent emotional responses, e.g., laughing when someone is crying, or becoming overwhelmed and upset by positive attention, e.g., classmates singing “happy birthday”.

Repetitive/ritualistic behaviours

People with ASD tend to experience variations of over or under sensory stimulation (touch, smell, sight, taste and hearing). For example, they may hear a sound much louder (or much softer) than it is in reality. Anxiety is frequently seen as a co-morbid condition in up to 84 percent of people with ASD, and repetitive behaviours (“stimming” – short for self-stimulatory) are often used to mediate both anxiety and sensory challenges.

High dependence on routines and doing things in the same order, becoming upset when the order is disrupted, e.g.,having to deviate from the familiar route on the way to the shops; might present well at school due to highly structured activities, but have a meltdown at home due to “holding it in” for the whole day. School holidays might be a particularly challenging time.

Sensory avoidance (covering ears at loud noises, strong dislike for labels or stitching on clothing, certain fabrics, hair brushing, showering, certain food textures and flavours, disliking different foods touching on the plate); sensory seeking (seeking movement, often in spite of the risk of social ostracism, e.g., stretching, rolling, crashing on the floor at inappropriate times/places, seeking out textures, like smooth fabrics/fur to pat/stroke, crunching ice, mouthing objects past toddlerhood).

Lack of imaginative/pretend play, e.g., lining up toys instead of playing with them.
Intense preoccupation with an activity, which takes place at the expense of everything else.

In girls the signs can be more subtle, as they are typically better at masking (hiding intense interests and sensory behaviours when in public) and camouflaging (taking on the interests of their peers that will gain them social acceptance).

If you or someone you know resonates with these signs, it could be beneficial to pursue an ASD assessment. 

ASD may present differently in teens or adults than children, often because individuals have learnt to ‘mask’ neurodiverse traits and behaviours. Signs that a teen or adult may have ASD include social communication challenges, sensory sensitivities, repetitive behaviours & special interests, difficulty with change and challenges with executive functioning.

Social Communication Challenges:

Teens or ddults with ASD may struggle with social interactions, such as difficulty maintaining eye contact, understanding social cues, or engaging in reciprocal conversations. They may also find it challenging to initiate or sustain friendships and relationships.

Sensory Sensitivities

Many individuals with ASD have heightened sensory sensitivities. They may be over or under-sensitive to certain sounds, lights, textures (e.g., habitually cutting off labels off their clothes or only choosing to wear soft, non-restrictive clothing like sportswear), or common smells that others don’t seem to have a reaction to. This can significantly impact their daily lives, causing discomfort or anxiety. While many people will have their cut-off point after which they will become irritated by e.g., loud noise or scratchy fabrics, the key point here is to pay attention to how others around you respond to the same stimulus, and how distressing the stimulus is to you. For example, you find yourself having to put in all your effort to focus on a conversation at work while distracted by the sensation of your shirt label rubbing onto your neck.

Repetitive Behaviours and Special Interests:

Teens and adults with ASD may engage in repetitive behaviours, such as habitually stroking a soft piece of fabric or a bumpy surface, rocking, hand-flapping, or having strict routines that cause distress if forced to deviate from. They may also exhibit intense interests in specific topics or objects, devoting significant time and energy to them at the exclusion of everything else and at the cost to close relationships. For example, you may find yourself losing friendships or even romantic partners due to your inability to pull away from your hobby or work, feeling a never-ending drive to consecrate all your weekends and holidays to a particular activity. When you do pull away, it is hard for you to find enjoyment in what your partner/friends/family seem to be enjoying, and your thoughts keep going back to your preferred activity. 

Difficulty with Change:

Individuals on the autism spectrum often struggle with transitions or changes in routines. They may become anxious or upset when faced with unexpected alterations, finding it hard to adapt to new situations.

Executive Functioning Challenges:

Teens and ddults with ASD may experience difficulties with planning, organization, time management, and decision-making. They may also have trouble with initiating and completing tasks or managing their emotions effectively.

If you or someone you know resonates with these signs, it could be beneficial to pursue an ASD assessment. 

Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis requires consultation and collaboration between health professionals including Paediatricians, Psychologists, Speech Pathologists and/or Occupational Therapists.

A registered Psychologist will conduct a formal assessment including a clinical interview and/or administration of the ADOS 2 and Vineland Adaptive Scales (for children), which are ‘gold’ standard measures in the assessment and diagnosis of ASD.

Upon completion of the assessment, scoring and report writing, the Psychologist will provide feedback to you and your referring Paediatrician or Psychiatrist (if applicable) regarding assessment findings and recommendations.

What happens during an ASD assessment?

Step 1: Clinical interview with parent/primary care giver including Vineland Scale – for children/teens

Step 2: ADOS 2 administration

Step 3: Scoring and interpretation

Step 4: Report Writing

Step 5: Feedback Provided regarding formal diagnosis (where applicable)

No, a referral is not required. However, if the individual having the ASD assessment is aged under 25 they can receive a medicare rebate of to assist with the cost of the ASD assessment provided they have a referral from their GP. The referral letter needs to specifically state that the individual is being referred for an assessment under the Complex Neurodevelopment Disorders and eligible disabilities schedule and must include the number of sessions covered (maximum of 4).

Associated Psychology Practice can provide ASD assessments for children aged 5 and over, teens and adults.

ASD assessments can take up to 12 hours for administration, scoring, report writing and consultation with referrers. The total cost of the assessment, scoring and report writing is $2600 including GST.

To book an ASD assessment please contact our office on 4722-3139 during business hours Monday to Friday.