For those seeking a formal diagnosis of Autism and in order to access certain services, an Autism assessment process may be necessary.
When assessing an individual for Autism, a number of tools can be used during the diagnostic process. Most practitioners will use a combination of the below, and will look for difficulties across a range of particular areas to confirm a diagnosis.
Many practitioners will use the DSM during the assessment process. If a diagnosis is present under the DSM, the diagnosis will be further specified into levels 1, 2, or 3 as below.
- Level 1 – Requiring Support
- Level 2 – Requiring Substantial Support
- Level 3 – Requiring Very Substantial Support
Getting an Assessment for your Child
If you wish to get an Autism assessment for your child this can be acquired in two ways – Publicly through the HSE, or Privately through a private practitioner/organisation. Currently, if you choose to avail of public health services, you can seek an assessment for your child from the HSE by getting a referral to your local Children’s Disability Network Team or by applying for an Assessment of Need.
The information below has been taken directly from various pages of the HSE website
Progressing Disability Services for Children & Young People (PDS)
In relation to children (from birth to 18 years), A national programme called Progressing Disability Services for Children & Young People (PDS) is changing the way services are provided across the country. For further information, see – https://www.hse.ie/childdisability/
Many children with delays in their development can have their needs met by their local Primary Care services (public health nurse, community speech and language therapist, family doctor, community physiotherapist etc.).
Children’s Disability Network Teams (CDNTs) will provide services for all children with more significant needs and who require a team of professionals working together. This will be regardless of the child’s disability, diagnosis, or where he or she goes to school.
Children's Disability Network Team (CDNT)
If you are concerned that your child may have a disability or is showing signs of Autism, talk to your GP or public health nurse (PHN) in the first instance.
Children who have mild or moderate difficulties may be referred to one or more health professionals in their local primary care services. However, children who are displaying a range of significant difficulties may be referred to their local Children’s Disability Network Team (CDNT).
The National Policy on Access to Services for Children & Young People with Disability & Developmental Delay outlines that Primary Care Services are providers of services for children with non-complex needs i.e. “one or more impairments giving rise to functional difficulties which result in mild restrictions in participation in normal daily living”. Children’s Disability Network Teams are the providers of services for children with complex needs, i.e. “one or more impairments which contribute to a range of significant functional difficulties that require the services and support of an interdisciplinary disability team”.
The Children’s Disability Network Teams (CDNTs) provide specialised support and services for children who have a disability and complex health needs associated with their disability. The CDNT includes health and social care professionals, each team member specialises in different areas of child development. Who your child sees and how often they see them will depend on your child’s needs, the team will discuss this with you.
All CDNTs have:
- occupational therapists
- social workers
- speech and language therapists
Teams also have access to:
- family support workers
- social care workers
Referral to a CDNT
Referral to a CDNT can be made by a healthcare professional, or you can make the referral yourself. To do this, you will need to complete the Children’s Services Referral Form which can be found here. You will also need to fill in an Additional Information Form (the Additional Information Form you complete will be dependent on your child’s age) which you can find here.
When a referral is received, health and social care professionals will look at the information you’ve provided and use this to decide on the most appropriate service for your child. The service will then contact you and let you know what will happen next.
Please be aware that there are waiting lists for services in all areas.
How CDNT’s Work
CDNT members may work with your child together or separately depending on your child’s needs and the priorities agreed with you.
The team offers a wide range of supports and services. This may include individual and group therapy, parent education about special needs, support for a child’s full participation in pre-school and school and advice on financial entitlements, housing and transport.
Individual Family Support Plan
Your family and the team will agree on a plan for your child. This is called an Individual Family Support Plan. It is based on your family’s needs. Together you will:
- talk about the issues in your family
- talk about goals that could address these issues
- write the Individual Family Support Plan together
- talk about how you will achieve these goals – what to do, how to do it, and who will do it
Types of support available
Your family can work together with the CDNT team as equal partners. The team can do this through:
- information sessions, talks and workshops
- group work
- one-to-one therapy
For further information, see – https://www2.hse.ie/services/disability/childrens-services/services/overview/
To find the details of your local CDNT, see – https://www2.hse.ie/services/disability/childrens-services/services/find-a-cdnt/
Assessment of Need
If your child was born after the 1st of June 2002 you can also apply for the Assessment of Need. This is an assessment carried out by the HSE for children or young people who may have a disability.
To apply for an Assessment of Need, contact your local Assessment Officer in your local Health Office and they will guide you through the application process. You can download the Assessment of Need form here and post it to your local Assessment Officer. Details can be seen at Assessment Officers – HSE.ie. You can also call your Local Health Office or the HSE information line on 1850 24 1850 to request a copy of the application form.
When your application is sent, you should receive a letter confirming receipt. Your Assessment Officer will contact you for more information about your child. They will look for information that will help to show the nature and level of difficulty experienced by your child. If your child needs an assessment, the Assessment Officer must arrange this referral within 3 months of receiving your completed application. Once this referral is made, there will be a further 3 months to assess your child and complete the Assessment Report. In some cases, there may be a delay. Your Assessment Officer will contact you to discuss any delay in the process.
Private Assessments for your Child
As waiting lists through the HSE can be long, some parents/guardians choose to have their child assessed privately. It is recommended to get a referral letter from your GP or Public Health Nurse etc. Some of the private organisations will require one, while others may not.
We would advise that you contact the individual organisations in advance to ask about what is involved in their assessment process, waiting times, and any costs, as these may vary.
Before going ahead with a private assessment, it is important to make sure that the assessments and diagnostic reports provided by individual private organisations/practitioners are accepted by the relevant Government bodies – such as the Department of Education, the HSE and the Dept. of Social Protection etc. to ensure that supports and services can be accessed post diagnosis.
Getting an Assessment as an Adult
If you are over 18 years of age and would like to have an assessment for Autism, you can do so via the public system or through a private provider.
To access an Autism Assessment through the public system you can request a referral from your G.P. However, waiting times can be long for adult assessments, as there are very few practitioners to be referred to within the public system.
Many adults will choose to have an assessment carried out privately due to waiting times in the public system. There are a number of private providers offering adult assessments across the country and online. If you choose to seek an assessment from a private provider, it is important to make sure that their assessments and diagnostic reports will be accepted by the relevant Government bodies (such as the HSE and the Dept. of Social Protection etc.) to ensure that supports and services can be accessed post diagnosis. Individual providers should be contacted directly for further clarification.