Autism Spectrum Disorder

ASD diagnostic assessment

Diagnostic assessments are carried out jointly with my colleagues, typically a clinical psychologist who can also help with any additional anxiety or mental health difficulties.

The assessment lasts approximately 4 hours and involves the child or young person and their parent or carer. The Autism Diagnostic Assessment Schedule Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) is a semi-structured assessment of communication, social interaction, and play (or imaginative use of materials) for individuals suspected of having autism or other pervasive developmental disorders. This is carried out with the student followed by The Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADIR) which is completed with the parent(s).The ADI-R is a clinical diagnostic instrument for assessing autism in children and adults and provides a diagnostic algorithm for autism as described in both the ICD-11 and DSM-V. Further information is gathered to support these assessments to include questionnaires or previous assessments and reports. Typically a clear conclusion can be made following these assessments when a diagnosis may be given, if the parents and student are ready to engage. On some occasions further assessment may be needed to include a school/nursery visit or liaison with other professionals involved. A detailed report is provided within 2-3 weeks of assessment with a follow-up appointment in person or on the phone on receipt of the report.

We understand that assessments can be challenging especially for those who have social communication difficulties. The assessment process is discussed and mapped out prior to the date to ensure those participating know what to expect to try and minimise anxiety. Following the assessment, discussion and feedback is provided to help students or their parents come to terms with a diagnosis. Further follow up appointment or signposting to other services will also be provided.

Therapy to support social communication skills

It is often assumed that if a student has good receptive and expressive language skills, they have the skills to be successful when interacting and communicating. However, research into social cognitive deficits in people with autism indicate that for interactive communication to be successful, it relies on the student’s ability to use language in a socially meaningful way. This is sometimes referred to as pragmatic language or social use of language.

Within therapy, different approaches may be used to support a student to develop their social communication skills. A behavioural social skills approach may be used for student’s who find it difficult to understand their own and others’ minds which may involve helping student’s learn to behave like neurotypical peers. For student’s who have well developed language and cognition, a cognitive-behavioural framework may be used. This approach develops a student’s awareness and understanding of their difficulties, while teaching them to learn cognitively what neurotypical people do intuitively.

Leonie has attended several courses and workshops to include ‘Social Thinking’ (Michelle Garcia Winner) and ‘Talkabout’ (Alex Kelly) and uses an eclectic mix of resources, video’s and discussions to support a student on their journey. Collaborative working with their family and education providers is also an important part of this therapy process.