Getting an assessment for autism if you are a young person
Sometimes, an autism diagnosis is missed in early childhood. This might be because the signs of autism were unclear or did not start to emerge until adolescence.
Autism can be diagnosed at any point in life, but the pathways will be different depending on your age.
In all cases, if you think you may be autistic, you should talk to a health, education or social care professional from your educational setting (e.g. the SENCO or speech and language therapist at your school / college). They will ask you questions to understand why you think you may be autistic. Based on the information gathered, they might refer you onto a specialist autism assessment pathway.
Please see below for details of where you might be referred on to.
If you are aged under 18
Your GP (or other health / social care professional) will refer you to one of the two Child Development Services (CDS) serving the borough. A team of different professionals at the CDS will then meet with you and work through a series of assessments to establish whether there is evidence of autism.
Sometimes, if you have existing mental health difficulties (e.g. depression or anxiety), you may instead be referred to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS). This is a slighlty different pathway but will still involve a team of professionals working with you to decide whether there is evidence of autism.
For more information, please visit the Diagnosis and Assessment page for children.
If you are aged 18 or over
Your GP (or other health / social care professional) will refer you to the Westminster Adult Autism Assessment and Diagnosis Service (WAAADS).
The WAAADS assessment process will involve at least 3 hour-long appointments with a team of autism specialists. The length of these appointments ensure there is enough time to gather the evidence needed for a formal autism diagnosis.
The process typically involves the following steps:
- Initial Meeting. The team will discuss the assessment process with you and make sure you are still happy to go ahead. They will ask you about your family history, early life experiences, educational & employment background, and any physical or mental illnesses you have.
- Social Communication Observation Assessment. The team will meet with you and carry out an evaluation of your social communication and behaviours. This involves talking and doing some activities together.
- Developmental History. With your consent, the team will meet with your parent or carer to gather information about your early life experience. You do not have to be present at this meeting.
- Cognitive Assessment. Sometimes, a cognitive assessment is carried out so the team can better understand your learning skills. This involves completing tasks looking at use of words, memory, ability to process information and problem-solving skills.
- Feedback. The information that has been gathered will be compared against a strict set of diagnostic criteria. In this meeting, the team will let you know the outcome of the assessment, and may share with you a draft report. They will then discuss and plan for any post-diagnosis support.
For more information on the process, please download the WAAADS "What to Expect at an Autism Assessment" leaflet.
Waiting for a diagnostic appointment can be an anxious time. The Centre for ADHD and Autism Support has produced an advice booklet for adults that answers some frequently asked questions and provides information on what you can expect whilst you wait.
If your GP is based in another borough
Please note that the service you are referred into depends on where your GP is located - not where you live. If your GP is based outside of the borough, they will refer you into equivalent services in their own boroughs.
Please check the Local Offer for the borough where your GP is located for more information on their own autism assessment pathways.
If you have a learning disability
If you have a diagnosis of learning disability, your GP (or other health / social care professional) will instead refer you to the Westminster Learning Disability Partnership (WLDP). This is because the team at WDLP have greater experience diagnosing autism against a background of learning disability.