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Autism Assessment Team

Autism is a lifelong developmental condition which affects the way that individuals communicate with and relate to other people. It affects how they make sense of the world around them. People with autism often prefer routine and may struggle with change. They may have particularly intense interests and may be good at noticing patterns and small details. People with autism frequently suffer from high levels of anxiety due to their difficulties in making sense of what is going on around them. It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways.

We can assess your child if they’re suspected of being on the autistic spectrum and are aged between one and 17½ years in West Berkshire, and five and 17½ years in East Berkshire.

Our team is made up of speech and language therapists, psychologists, community paediatricians (West Berkshire), specialist mental health practitioners, specialist nurses, assistant psychologists and administrators.

Initial questionnaires

Once we receive a referral for an autism assessment, we’ll ask you and your child's pre-school/school to complete questionnaires about your child as an initial screening process to determine whether an autism assessment is the best way to meet your child's needs. These forms must be returned within three weeks.

If your returned questionnaires don’t suggest autism, our health hub team will get in touch with you to discuss signposting to other services.

If, based on the questionnaires, a referral is accepted, we’ll send you information about support available while you wait for the assessment, current waiting times and information on workshops you may like to attend. We will also provide a letter to take to your child’s school or pre-school regarding the support they may need in that setting. 

There will also be an additional set of questionnaires at this stage for you and the child's school/pre-school to complete. This information is essential for your child's autism assessment and we cannot book appointments without this information.

Please note if your child is not in any educational setting, family questionnaires are sufficient.

Between questionnaire and assessment

We provide a support helpline two to three times a week for parents and carers whose child is on the waiting list for assessment.

We also offer support and help 24 hours a day through our online support network SHaRON Jupiter.

We’ll assess your child as soon as possible. But, although waiting times are reducing, there may still be a wait and we will inform you of this in your referral pack.

What happens during an assessment

Each assessment is conducted by two clinicians (sometimes three). One team member will gather information from you about your child, while the other spends time with your child to observe their communication, social interaction and play/interests. Where possible we will do this at the same time (ie you will be seen in one room and your child in another at the same time), but sometimes the appointments will be offered on separate days.

We will also review the information provided from the questionnaires completed before the assessment and from other professionals who know your child. At the end of the appointment we will discuss our findings with you. Often a decision can be made on the same day. Sometimes further information is requested and this could include a visit to school to observe the young person and discuss them with a member of staff. If this is the case we will arrange for you to come for a feedback session after the extra information has been gathered.

For more information watch our video on 'what to expect in an assessment.'

What happens after the assessment

The assessment may lead to a diagnosis of autism. If this is the case we will provide information about further sources of support and make recommendations for the support your child should receive.

A number of children that come in for an autism assessment will not receive a diagnosis of autism. If this is the case we will discuss your child's strengths and difficulties and make recommendations about further sources of support your child should receive. This includes information on autism-specific parenting workshops and groups in the area, and access to specialist advisory teachers where possible. You’ll also be invited to join an online support network for parents and carers.

After the assessment, we will write a detailed report to summarise our findings and include all our recommendations for supporting your child both at home and in school.

If your child has other difficulties in addition to or instead of autism that may need further assessment, we will refer your child onto the relevant services.

Private assessments

If you are considering paying for a private assessment, it is worth bearing in mind how your school or local authority would respond to the assessment and any recommendations made, and check how the assessment will be conducted and whether it meets NICE or good practice recommendations.

If you have a private assessment, please let us know so that we can remove your child from our waiting list. If you have any difficulties following a private assessment you can send us a copy of the report, and as long as it meets good practice guidelines we will be able to write a letter stating that they do not need further assessment.

We accept referrals from professionals who know the child or young person, including health visitors, nursery nurses, teachers, GPs, special educational needs coordinators (SENCO) and educational psychologists. Ideally, referrals should come from professionals that know the child best, such as their teacher, special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) or health visitor.

Please read our referral criteria carefully before you complete our online referral form.

If your referral is urgent, please phone 0300 365 1234.

Once your child has been assessed and if they have received a diagnosis of autism, further information is available on our Support and advice pages.

You can find additional support online by visiting:

 

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