How to get an autism diagnosis as an adult

Getting an autism diagnosisAs an adult you may suspect you are on the autistic spectrum but never have received a formal diagnosis. It took me a few years from doing an Autistic Quotient test to feeling that I needed a formal diagnosis to be sure. The diagnosis helped me to make sense of so much of my life as well as empowering myself and my wife to access support groups for adults and their partners.

To get a diagnosis of autism involves seeing a specialist, who will then assess you and decide whether or not you meet certain criteria. In 2014 I was given a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome but if you get an diagnosed today it will almost certainly be one of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as new diagnostic criteria have brought together Asperger’s and autism under one heading.

Getting a referral from your GP

In the UK you can get a free diagnosis through the NHS but first you need a referral from your GP. The NHS say you have a right to an assessment but your GP will need to have a reason to refer you. You will need to make a case to your GP about why you suspect you are on the autistic spectrum and how you think a diagnosis might help you.

When you go to your GP you might want to take along with you a family member for support and/or to help you to explain what you want and why. Also these referrals are not necessarily automatically funded by the NHS so this information will help your GP in completing any funding application that they need to make in order to secure your referral.

You might also want to research local psychiatrists who specialise in autism diagnoses for adults, to help your GP find someone appropriate. This may be particularly important for women, as not all psychiatrists may be skilled in diagnosing women on the autistic spectrum.

Can I go private?

Some people prefer to bypass the NHS and go private. This is mainly because there can be a very long wait for an assessment. I only waited a few months but I have known some people to wait a couple of years.

However, there is a lot of variation in the price for a private autism assessment: some can pay hundreds of pounds and some even over a thousand. Another problem can be that, if you need support, a private diagnosis may not always be accepted by some local services providers and you may still need to get an NHS diagnosis to access their services.

What will happen at my assessment?

Your assessment will be with a clinical specialist, usually a psychiatrist, but may include other professionals such as a clinical psychologist. It is helpful if you can take a family member or friend with you. A parent can be useful as they may be able to tell about your early development. My wife went with me as neither of my parents were alive when I had mine.

The psychiatrist will ask you questions about your symptoms. They may speak with you and your family member or friend together and separately. Again it really helps to be prepared, especially for someone on the autistic spectrum, as we may need time to reflect on and process some aspects of our autism and some may fail to fully explain the issues if they haven’t done this.

How can Asperger’s Heroes help?

It can be helpful to talk to someone about the possibility of going for a diagnosis before you do. In our pre-diagnostic package we will discuss the diagnostic criteria and how your behaviour fits in with it. We can help you to articulate why you feel you are autistic to you doctor and psychiatrist and can produce a written report for them to help with your referral and assessment.

Further reading

Autism diagnosis for adults - the National Autism Society

Autism diagnosis for adults - the NHS