Autism Diagnostic and Therapeutic Supports
Autism diagnosis can take a number of different forms. It may happen in early years, or as late as adulthood. It can be pursued publicly or privately. Autism may be the only necessary diagnosis, or it may exist alongside other co-occurring differences. It can only be diagnosed by a psychologist, psychiatrist, developmental pediatrician or a child neurologist. Diagnosis will typically be accompanied by a diagnostic report outlining recommended supports. For children, an autism diagnosis is necessary to access educational supports and therapeutic supports. For adults, diagnosis can assist in gaining other supports such as university disability services or reasonable accommodations in the workplace.
Furthermore for both of these groups, a diagnosis often provides clarity, relief and a framework for moving forward. Many parents feel relief to finally put a name to their child’s difference. Many adults who are diagnosed later in life feel liberated; having finally found an answer for why they struggled in certain areas.
Diagnosis can open a pathway to access therapeutic and clinical supports. Children can avail of early supports such as speech and language therapy or occupational therapy. It can also provide the opportunity for more targeted mental health approaches. For adults, especially women, autism may be misdiagnosed as other mental health difficulties. This can be lead to frustration when standard therapies or medications fail to improve their lives. A diagnosis helps provide a framework for distinguishing autism from, for example, anxiety produced by your environment.
The aim of any evidence-based therapy should be to empower an autistic person to enjoy autonomy, independence and positive self-esteem within their family and community. Any therapy which approaches autism as a deficit or which aims to make an autistic person conform to neurotypical norms should be avoided as they constitute a breach in the fundamental rights of autistic people. This includes Applied Behavioural Analysis which has a deeply troubling history and which has been cited by countless autistic people as a source of distress, trauma and poor mental health.
Accessing a diagnosis and relevant neuro-affirmative supports can be a difficult and expensive process for individuals and families. We’ve provided information on the options available to you in the section below