What should I expect on the assessment day?
A member of our team will carry out the DISCO (Diagnostic Interview for Social and Communication Disorders) whilst the other team member completes direct observations and assessments with the child, young person or adult. This can take place at home, school, college, work or a clinic room if this is more convenient and comfortable for you. Who is carrying out each part will have been agreed prior to the assessment day. The team will then discuss findings and feedback their conclusions, as well as discussing any recommendations for future support.
What do I tell my child/young person?
This will vary depending on the age and understanding of the person themselves. For a younger child you may choose to tell them that they are going to ‘play and chat’ whilst you answer some questions. Some parents might suggest that we are going to try to find out why they have been having some difficulties, and make suggestions that might help. For older children you may have already discussed Autism and they may be aware of the purpose of the assessment. Some parents might then explain that the assessment is to find out if they are on the Autism Spectrum and suggest that this might help school/college etc to understand and support them better. We can advise further prior to the assessment in discussion with you.
Can I stay with my child if they are anxious?
Of course! If your child struggles to separate from you, the direct assessment can be completed with you there. If in school you may suggest a familiar teacher or other adult to stay with them.
What if they do not comply with the assessment?
The assessment will take place at their own pace. If the child/young person/adult does not want to complete any section or task, this is fine. A social communication assessment is about them being at ease, so that we can see their most relaxed social interaction skills. The assessment is set up in a relaxed and informal way so that nobody can be non-compliant.
How can you assess social skills if you do not see them in a group situation?
We are very aware that some children interact far better in a 1:1 adult situation than with their peers. We are also very experienced in uncovering any ‘hidden’ difficulties. With your permission we will also request information from school/college about their friends/social interaction and if the assessment takes place in school we will observe at break time.
Why might a speech and language assessment be helpful?
Some children have delays or disordered speech and language development. This can affect their social skills as they may struggle to communicate with peers of their own age, but interact better with younger children for example. Other children may have excellent ‘concrete’ language skills but might struggle with ‘higher level language’ for example the ability to use the language that they have in order to modulate social interaction. They might also struggle with inferencing, predicting, or talking about emotions. They might interpret language in a literal way. It can be useful to assess core language skills in order to understand whether it is their language that is affecting their social interaction, or whether there is something else, i.e. Autism, that is the influencing factor.
What is The ADOS?
The Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) is a semi-structured, standardised assessment of communication, social interaction and play, and restricted and repetitive behaviours. There are 5 modules that can be used, depending on the age and language ability of the child or young person. The ADOS is used in a relaxed and social way, so that the child or young person feels that they are engaged in an informal ‘play (if appropriate) and chat’ type session rather than feeling they are being ‘assessed’. Time is taken to build rapport and to put clients at ease, and they often comment that they have enjoyed the session. Any initial anxiety about being assessed is usually forgotten very quickly. It is one of the assessment tools recommended by NICE.
Why might a cognitive assessment be helpful?
A cognitive assessment is a formal assessment of your, or your child’s abilities in areas such as Verbal Comprehension, Visual Spatial ability, Reasoning skills, Working Memory and Processing Speed. It can help us understand a person’s ‘thinking skills’ and how best to work with them. This is useful because cognitive ability can have an impact on other areas of functioning, such as communication, learning and problem solving. Knowing how someone is functioning can help us recommend strategies and interventions to support you or your child in school or at work. It may also show that difficulties people are experiencing are masking their strengths or vice versa. We aim to focus on an individual’s strengths whilst highlighting supportive strategies where needed to help increase confidence and self-esteem.
What if I don’t have a parent or family member to contribute to the DISCO part of the assessment?
Sometimes adults who have chosen to find out whether they are on the Autistic Spectrum do not have someone available who can talk about their early life and developmental history. In these cases, we can still complete much of the DISCO assessment based on self-report and/or from input from other significant people in your life (e.g. a partner or friend). It would however be very useful if any other information about your early life could be made available for use to gather information from. This might be medical reports, GP records, school reports etc. We can discuss this with you before you decide to commit to an assessment.
Why might you want to talk to other people? Can I say no?
In order to provide a well rounded and robust assessment, it can be useful to gain information from a range of sources. NICE Guidelines state that we should have information from a range of settings. However we will only talk to people with your consent.
Who is sent a copy of the report?
As our assessments are commissioned privately, we will send the report to yourself and, with your consent, to your GP. It is up to you who you share the report with and who you tell about the assessment and/or diagnosis. We would always suggest that in the case of a child, the report is shared and discussed with school.
Does this go on the medical record?
If a diagnosis is given and your GP is advised, yes, it will appear on the medical record.
Will the NHS/Local Authority accept the outcome of a private assessment?
We have no reason to believe that a diagnosis made by Connect will not be accepted, however we cannot guarantee this. As Connect offers an assessment that is fully compliant with the NICE Guidelines, and provides a comprehensive report detailing the reasons why the diagnosis was given, other providers should accept this. You may wish to discuss this with your local team prior to the assessment. We are happy to liaise with a local team on your behalf if the need arises.