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Author: Dr Geeta KrishnanConsultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist

As a parent, you may have growing suspicions that your child is processing information differently to other children and may wonder if they have autism. It can be really helpful to get a formal diagnosis from an expert child and adolescent psychiatrist who will be able to identify whether your child has autism and what type of ongoing support they might need.

What is autism?

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder, characterised by difficulties with social communication, interacting with others and restrictive or repetitive behaviours or interests.

The term ‘spectrum’ means that the characteristics of ASD will vary, often wildly, between individuals. So, you might have a child at one of the Autism spectrum who is nonverbal with learning disabilities and at the other end, you may have a child with a high IQ, who is highly articulate.

Many people in the ‘neurotypical’ population will have ASD traits, but don’t meet the criteria for an Autism diagnosis.

ASD is an umbrella term – Asperger’s and Pathological Demand Avoidance are classifications of Autism, however in recent years there has been debate about the usefulness of these classifications. The USA has moved to a diagnostic model of just ‘ASD’.

of UK children under the age of 17 are thought to have a diagnosis of autism

Signs of autism

In some children, the signs of autism are very obvious and they may be diagnosed with ASD from an early age. But for other children, the symptoms of autism are more subtle and harder to pick up. Your child might display unusual behaviours which don’t fit the stereotype for ASD and therefore make it harder to seek a formal diagnosis.

You can read more about the signs of autism here.

The importance of early diagnosis of Autism

Early diagnosis of Autism can make a real difference to the child and their family.

  1. Adjustments can be put in place, which will help the child thrive in their environment
  2. A diagnosis of autism can help both the child and their family understand certain behavioural characteristics.

ASD is a lifelong condition and hence does not ‘go away’ or be ‘cured’. Having a child on the autism spectrum can affect the whole family. It can disrupt family life as certain things may be harder for your child – their behaviour may be unpredictable and they may have specific needs which impact on the whole family.

An excellent practitioner with empathy, flexibility and accuracy. The diagnosis and recommendations have been absolutely critical for us.

Sarah, London

Download our Autism assessment guide

In my experience, with early diagnosis and intervention, it is not unusual for children on the ASD spectrum to be unrecognisable from his or her peers as they grow older. As ASD is a developmental disorder, the right help and support can help the child learn and develop social and communication skills which will allow them to manage their difficulties better as they grow up.

Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist

Dr Geeta Krishnan is a highly competent Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist who works for North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, previously Lead Consultant for her Borough in Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust. Dr Krishnan has...

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