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ASD Diagnosis




Autism is a lifelong developmental disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world. One in 100 people are on the autism spectrum and there are around 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK.

People with Autism have difficulties in 2 main areas:



a. Social communication:

 Autistic people have difficulties with interpreting both verbal and non-verbal language like gestures or tone of voice. Some autistic people are unable to speak or have limited speech while other autistic people have very good language skills but struggle to understand sarcasm or tone of voice. Other challenges may include:

  • taking things literally and not understanding abstract concepts
  • needing extra time to process information or answer questions
  • repeating what others say to them (this is called echolalia

Social interaction

Autistic people often have difficulty 'reading' other people - recognising or understanding others' feelings and intentions - and expressing their own emotions. This can make it very hard to navigate the social world. Autistic people may:

  • appear to be insensitive
  • seek out time alone when overloaded by other people
  • not seek comfort from other people
  • appear to behave 'strangely' or in a way thought to be socially inappropriate
  • find it hard to form friendships


  • With its unwritten rules, the world can seem a very unpredictable and confusing place to autistic people. This is why they often prefer to have routines so that they know what is going to happen. They may want to travel the same way to and from school or work, wear the same clothes or eat exactly the same food for breakfast. 
  • Autistic people may also repeat movements such as hand flapping, rocking or the repetitive use of an object such as twirling a pen or opening and closing a door. Autistic people often engage in these behaviours to help calm themselves when they are stressed or anxious, but many autistic people do it because they find it enjoyable. 
  • Change to routine can also be very distressing for autistic people and make them very anxious. It could be having to adjust to big events like Christmas or changing schools, facing uncertainty at work, or something simpler like a bus detour that can trigger their anxiety. 

In addition, they may have:

  • Over or under sensitivity to light, sound, taste or touch


  • Highly focussed interests or hobbies
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Meltdowns and shutdowns

There is a lot more information available through the National Autistic Society website



There is no biological marker for Autism and therefore it cannot be diagnosed by a medical test, such as a brain scan or blood test.

The diagnosis of ASD is made by professionals who have expertise in the assessment and diagnosis of ASD. This is usually a Community Paediatrician, Speech and Language Therapist, Clinical Psychologist or Psychiatrist.


Assessments are multi-disciplinary in that more than one of these professionals would be involved in an ASD assessment.

An ASD assessment has to follow the guidelines set out by NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence)

A diagnostic assessment for children and young people includes the following elements:

  •  A detailed interview with parents / carers that focuses on social communication, interaction and rigid / repetitive / sensory behaviour.
  • Observations of the young person. This often, but not always, includes a standardised measure known as an Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS)
  • Information from school /nursery or College

 All information that is gathered during an assessment is then reviewed alongside the diagnostic criteria outlined in DSM V or ICD 10 to see if your child meets the diagnostic threshold.



In Greenwich the main way that families can get an assessment for a possible autistic spectrum Disorder is through the Integrated Neuro-development Team based at Highpoint House.

If you have concerns that your child may be on the Autism Spectrum, they will need to be referred to the Community Paediatric (LINK TO PAGE ON LO) or Speech and Language Therapy team (LINK TO PAGE ON LO in the first instance. If the referral is accepted, then your child will have an initial appointment with a Community Paediatrician or Speech and Language Therapist who will decide if a referral to the ASD assessment team for further assessment is required. If your child is under the care of CAMHS or the IND ADHD Team and you are concerned that your child may be on the Autism Spectrum then they can refer to the ASD Team without needing to see a Community Paediatrician or Speech and Language Therapist first.


The following link provides more detailed information about the referral and assessment process in Greenwich:




You can get an autism assessment privately, but it will need to be completed within NICE guidelines to be accepted as a valid assessment. As assessments are long and typically involve 2 highly skilled professionals they are expensive.

Centres that can offer this type of assessment within a reasonable distance include:

  • The Evalina Children’s Hospital
  • The National Autistic Society Lorna Wing Centre



Parent toolkit

Do you think your child has autism or have they been recently diagnosed? If the answer is yes, you will have many questions about what to do next. Ambitious about Autism’s Right from the Start parent toolkit is here to help.