Getting a diagnosis
First signs for autism checklists
The signs and characteristics of autism can vary greatly from person to person, and can also develop, change and improve over time. Age, gender and cognitive ability can also have an impact on how the signs or characteristics of autism present themselves. If you feel that you, or someone you love, is on the spectrum, the below checklists will provide you with a list of the common signs and characteristics that can be seen in each age group.
The differences in autism based on gender
Far more males than females are diagnosed with autism in Australia. In fact, four Australian males are diagnosed on the spectrum to every one female. Evidence suggestions, there could be a range of reasons for this, including a bias towards males in the diagnostic process. Find out more about the differences in presentations of autism based on gender.
Why get a diagnosis?
It can be tempting to put off getting your child assessed for autism, and wait to see if they ‘grow out’ of certain behaviours. However, if your child is on the autism spectrum, an early diagnosis can be beneficial in a number of ways:
- Your child – and you – may get the help, funding and support you may need earlier.
- Your child’s school and teaching staff may have a better understanding of your child’s needs – allowing them to support your child more effectively.
- Your child’s friends and family friends may have a better understanding of your child’s needs and behaviours- allowing them to interact and support them more effectively
- Your child may have a stronger sense of self-worth if they understand themselves better.
- Your child may have increased confidence knowing they are part of a larger group of kids with autism!
If you’re an adult and suspect you may be on the spectrum, a diagnosis may give you peace of mind, and can support in a range of ways. It may:
- Assist you to receive any appropriate funding, support and help you might need.
- Your family, friends and work colleagues (if you choose to tell them) may have a better understanding of you needs – and allow them to support you more effectively.
- You may have a greater sense of self-identity if you understand yourself – and the spectrum – better.
- You may have a better understanding of your experiences as a child.
- You may benefit from the support and friendship of a larger group of adults on the spectrum.
Getting a diagnosis – children < 18 years
If you have concerns about your child’s development, it’s important to raise them with a qualified professional, including a General Practitioner (GP) who may refer your child for an autism assessment.
Alternatively, if you have concerns about your child’s development, and think that they may have autism, you can refer them directly to a number of professionals that can assess for autism.
Getting a diagnosis – adults > 18 years
The assessment process for adults might look a bit different than that for children. Generally, referrals for adult diagnosis are made by the adults themselves, by their parent/carer with their consent, or by their partner.
Discussing your development with a GP or relevant professional can be also useful prior to referral, as your health care professional may make referrals to undertake a psychological or psychiatric assessment. A speech therapist could also be consulted to assess your social communication skills.
What to do following a diagnosis
A diagnosis of autism can raise many emotions – relief at finally having an answer to some of the concerns you had about your or your child’s development, sadness, fear of the future, or even grief. All of these feelings and emotions are normal and should be allowed to run their course.
On a practical level, having a diagnosis can link you in with a wide range of available services and support.
What other conditions co-occur with autism?
The current diagnostic manual for autism, the DSM-5 notes that 70% of the time a diagnosis of autism is accompanied by an additional condition or diagnosis, and 40% of the time by two or more additional conditions of diagnosis.
These co-occurring conditions can appear at any time during a person’s development, and some may not appear until later in adolescence or even adulthood.
Here is a list of key conditions that can occur in addition to a diagnosis of autism.