Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a term used to cover what were previously a wide range of conditions which shared common areas of difficulty, including Autism and Asperger’s. ASD exists along a range or “spectrum” with some individuals experiencing more severe difficulties than others.

Our partners at Questa Psychological Services are able to provide a high quality assessment service for people diagnosed with ASD and their families. Please contact Questa to make an appointment.

The common symptoms of ASD fall into three categories:

Social Relationships

  • Not responding when called
  • Rejecting physical interactions
  • Being unaware of personal space
  • Little interest in interactions
  • Preferring to play alone
  • Taking things literally

Communication skills

  • Delayed speech development
  • Repetition of set words or phrases (echolalia)
  • Speech that is monotonous or flat

Understanding emotions:

  • Being unable to adapt the tone and content of speech to different situations
  • Over- or under-reacting to situations
  • Avoiding eye contact

Other signs of ASD

Some of the other common signs of ASD are having particularly narrow interests, displaying repetitive behaviours, having difficulty coping with change and hypo- or hyper-sensitivity. Repetitive behaviours can include; hand flapping, rocking back and forth, flicking their fingers and playing with toys in a repetitive fashion. Some individuals may have strong likes or dislikes for certain foods based on their texture or colour or may consume inedible items (PICA).

How is ASD diagnosed?

We are able to offer an assessment and diagnosis service for Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASCs)/Asperger’s syndrome. These assessments can help you to better understand your own strengths and difficulties. It may be beneficial for you to spend some time before your assessment considering how you would like your life to be different or what you would like to be doing which you currently aren’t, e.g. making friends, having a more varied job or living more independently. These goals or aims can help inform how we consider making recommendations or supporting you following the assessment. We use formal assessment measures as recommended by The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE).

There are 5 stages to the assessment process:

  1. Initial telephone conversation following an enquiry.
    This gives you a chance to speak to a psychologist and ask any questions that you may have. If you choose to book an appointment for an initial screening session following this conversation you will be sent a few questionnaires to complete. These will then need to be brought to the initial assessment or emailed beforehand.
  2. Initial screening session.
    This session will last for around 90 minutes and will include a clinical interview and discussion of the completed questionnaires. At the end of this session the psychologist will be able to tell you whether a full assessment is necessary based upon your questionnaires and their clinical expertise. You can then decide whether, if clinically necessary, you wish to embark on the formal assessment process.
  3. Formal Assessment for Autism Spectrum Conditions.
    A formal assessment will involve the completion of further psychometric measures and clinical observations. This usually takes two further 90 minute sessions. It will also be possible to discuss any further assessments if clinically required, for example, a cognitive assessment, ADHD or a differential diagnosis which may incur an additional cost.
  4. All of the measures will then be scored and interpreted.
    A report will be written detailing the results and whether or not you meet criteria for a diagnosis of ASC. Recommendations about the next steps will be made. This involves considerable work ‘behind the scenes’ and is reflected in the costing of the assessment package.
  5. Diagnostic Outcome session.
    This session is designed to share the outcome of diagnosis (whether or not you meet criteria for an ASC), go through the results of the assessment process as detailed in the report. Recommendations will be discussed and any changes to the report can be made. This report is then sent to you, the client. Further help and support that we are able to provide or help that can be provided by other services can also be discussed.


Q: Will my child’s school or college accept the outcome of an assessment conducted in the private sector?

A: Many parents and carers may worry or may have heard that the assessment findings will not be accepted by their child’s school or college because the assessment has not been conducted by clinicians working in the NHS. The issue is not whether your child has been assessed within the NHS or the private sector, but whether the assessment has been carried out by suitably trained, qualified and experienced clinicians. All of the clinicians on our multi-disciplinary team are fully trained and highly experienced in the assessment and diagnosis of autism. The clinical leads for our autism pathway also work in autism assessment in the NHS. Schools and colleges will therefore be able to accept the findings as reliable and valid.


There is no “cure” for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Some interventions can be useful in improving day to day life by helping with communication skills, education and social skills. The type of approach which will be most helpful can be discussed with the practitioner conducting the assessment as they will have an in-depth understanding of the difficulties that you and your family are experiencing.