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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 autism will vary, often wildly, between individuals, which is why a detailed assessment which explores their strengths and challenges is needed. 

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

In recent years, the USA has moved to reduce the different classifications used to describe someone who is on the autism spectrum, which has previously included Asperger’s. It is likely that the UK will follow this revised system of classification and the ICD-10 (the manual Psychiatrists use when diagnosing conditions) is being revised. This understandably can make it confusing for families and individuals.

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.

Some children have certain strengths that enable them to mask some of their difficulties with social communication and interaction – these can make it harder when you are thinking of seeking a formal diagnosis. An autism assessment should look at all areas of a child’s life, both at home and school, and will take into consideration the views of many of the adults in your child’s life. This feedback helps the clinicians to ensure they are looking holistically at your child’s difficulties and whether they meet the criteria of autism.

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, their family and their school understand certain behavioural characteristics.

Autism is a lifelong developmental condition and having an autistic child can affect the whole family. Unmet needs 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

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