Ready to Diagnose?
Great! It’s time to record observations of your child’s behaviour. Write descriptions or make videos of the behaviour, and how long it lasted for. Note the date.
Autism doesn’t always present in obvious ways. During quick screening assessments, my son was missed by three speech pathologists, a psychologist, two General Practitioners and two Paediatricians because he had good eye-contact. He was later diagnosed as Autism Level 2 (which indicates he has a lot of challenges). Do not rely on short appointments to capture whether your child has a disability or initiate diagnosis. We all behave unconventionally in new places and there is a reluctance among some practitioners to initiate diagnosis unless a parent is strongly advocating for that outcome.
Take in your therapist’s assessments if you have any… and don’t be afraid to look for a second opinion. Therapists and doctors experience different training, have preferred approaches and so draw from different theories.
I encourage you to ask questions like “Well, if my child did struggle with autism or dyspraxia or a speech delay, what would the treatment be?” Don’t settle for “Do they, or don’t they have…?” Educate yourself as quickly as you can., because diagnosis is only a small part of trying to work out how to help your child. Gaining access to people who genuinely know how to help can be long a process of trial and error, and waiting lists.
Public sector services were generous in teaching me therapeutic skills, but I wouldn’t rely on them for diagnosis if you can afford it. The wait time is longer and my son’s autism was consistently missed by new graduates who were lovely but inexperienced. Later, his diagnosis report contained many factual errors. I would recommend going straight to an experienced private speech pathologist, psychologist or occupational therapist if you are concerned about your child’s development. Though costly, it will save you a lot of money in the long term.
If you are wondering whether your child is autistic, looking at questions from a sensory questionnaire can give you a better idea of the sensory experiences autistic kids have, and help you notice more of the behaviours that lead to diagnosis. If you are waiting for diagnosis or on a waiting list for therapy, the resources and programs I’ve listed throughout this website are a good place to start. If you aren’t sure whether your child is autistic, the therapeutic programs that help autistic kids are enriching for all children, so don’t feel you need to wait for diagnosis to get started.
Example of a sensory questionnaire – https://sensorykids.ie/en/sensory-integration/sensory-integration-screening-questionnare/