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  • Writer's pictureDr Jennifer Turner

Considerations before having an autism assessment

A question which comes up time and time again is what do I need to consider when thinking about getting an assessment for my child or myself? Hopefully it is a question any clinic will discuss thoroughly with you and your child (depending on their age and maturity) to ensure you all know what you are consenting to. However here are some thoughts to consiser.

In my experience the first thing you need to think about is why do you want an assessment?

An assessment does not always lead to a diagnosis and you need to be prepared should this be the case. That doesn’t mean your child isn’t experiencing difficulties, just that there may be another explanation for them. Often the wrong diagnosis can be as challenging as no diagnosis.

You also need to know that not all autistic people need significant levels of additional help. In education this means there is no guarantee that a diagnosis will get your child additional support in school or an EHC plan (Education, Health Care plan).

It is also helpful to think about benefits of a diagnosis, for many people this can give them as sense of belonging, a recognition that there is an explanation why they find certain things difficult. It is not that they are lazy, broken or their brain does not work. It also opens doors for others to try to understand their struggles. However, a diagnostic label isn’t always necessary to feel fully understood and can lead people to make incorrect assumptions.

Some young people reject the label and identity, feeling as if they are now seen as different or worrying they will be discriminated against. Autism is covered by the Equalities Act 2010 and therefore should not lead to any discrimination.

An important consideration is that an autism diagnosis may prevent a young person from joining the Army and will be considered on a case by case basis for the Royal Navy and Air Force. I would suggest talking to the relevant recruitment team for their most up to date information if this is a career your young person is considering before you start on the process of assessment.

You will also need to consider emigration criteria if you are planning to emigrate to certain countries as autism may be a factor in your application.

Most people will have already done a lot of research before embarking on an assessment for their child. They have often wondered if there is something different about their child or a reason why they do not behave in quite the same way as others. Parents may feel they are doing something wrong or had somehow missed the magic solution to helping their child. In my experience parents have usually tried a wide variety of strategies, read a lot of books or taken several courses, none of which have really helped. Receiving a diagnosis can be both a relief, there was a reason those strategies didn’t work, and a shock. Despite knowing their child was ‘different’, processing a diagnosis and what this means can be overwhelming. This is also something to think about before seeking an assessment.

In the next post I will share some thoughts about how to find an assessment clinic and what to look for. However, if you would like to work through your thoughts about diagnosis and whether this is the right path for you, please contact me.

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