Diagnosis for children

Diagnosis for children

If you’re wondering if your child may be autistic, the first step is to talk to someone about it. You could speak to your GP, a health visitor (for children under 5) or another health professional or a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) at your child's school. They can refer you for an autism assessment.

Diagnostic criteria

The characteristics of autism look different for every person, but there are particular criteria that are assessed during diagnosis. These are defined as “persistent difficulties with social communication and social interaction” and “restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviours, activities or interests”, present since early childhood, to the extent that these “limit and impair everyday functioning”.

Children can be diagnosed as autistic when they are very young, in some cases from the age of two. It’s also common for children not to get a diagnosis until they are older, or even an adult.

Waiting times and process

Waiting times for autism assessments differ depending on where you live and the services available in your local area. Once you get invited for assessment, you may have one or more appointments with a team of different professionals, such as speech and language therapists and psychologists. At the end of assessment, you will receive a written report with the diagnosis.

Read more about common characteristics of autism, how to get a diagnosis and find support by clicking on the links below.

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