What is autism?
Autism is a developmental disability that influences how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people around them. People with autism may have difficulties with social interaction, communication and with using their imagination.
As autism is a spectrum condition, it often affects people in very different ways. Our service aims to meet the standards for the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder set out by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), allowing each child to be supported with his or her individual needs.
Referrals for the Autism Assessment Service can come from Paediatricians, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and speech and language therapists.
If you have concerns about your child, please make an appointment to speak with your GP who would make a referral to one of the practitioners listed above. Alternatively, every school has a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO), who you can speak to regarding your concerns. However, school staff cannot make a referral for an autism assessment.
The Autism Assessment Team does not have ongoing involvement following assessment. Instead, we will make recommendations and a copy of the report is sent to all relevant professionals. We will sometimes make referrals on to other services that we think would be helpful for your child or family.
As our service works both in Harrogate District Hospital and in the local community, the process differs slightly depending on location. Please see below for more specific information.
Harrogate District Hospital
Upon referral, children and young people will be offered a clinic appointment with the paediatrician. If they feel it is appropriate, they will refer the child to the Autism Assessment Team.
Before an assessment, we will arrange a pre-assessment meeting. This meeting is a chance for the case co-ordinator to explain the assessment process to the child and his or her family, to gain consent for the assessment to go ahead, and to answer any questions.
The assessment process can take place over one-two weeks.
The child will have an appointment at the Child Development Centre at Harrogate District Hospital, where he or she will spend time talking and/or playing with members of the Assessment Team. We use a standardised assessment tool which is recommended for assessing for autism.
There will be an appointment for parents and carers to attend. This is an opportunity for a member of the Team to take a detailed case history. The child or young person will also be observed in another setting (usually a nursery, school, or college).
During the assessment we may gather information from other professionals who are involved in the child’s care and wellbeing. This may include:
- School staff
- Health child practitioners or school nurses
- Parent support advisors
- Family outreach workers
- Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services
- Other clinical teams including speech and language therapists and occupational therapists.
After the assessment, a member of the team will offer feedback and tell the parent/carer the outcome of the assessment. This is an opportunity to highlight the child’s strengths as well as discussing areas they are having more difficulty in. An assessment report will be written and the case co-ordinator will meet again with the child and his or her family for a follow-up appointment.
Our working hours at Harrogate District Hospital vary depending on the day, week, and clinician. Admin support is available Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. However, clinical staff may not always be available during these times.
Autism Assessment Team
Child Development Centre
Harrogate District Hospital
Lancaster Park Road
Hambleton & Richmondshire
Once a child or young person has been referred to the service, and consent has been given, additional information is requested from parents and carers, and, where appropriate, from the child’s school, college or nursery. The Team consider this information to see if a full assessment for autism is needed.
The assessment consists of four parts:
- An appointment with the child or young person’s parent/carer to complete the autism diagnostic interview;
- An observation of the child or young person at their home, school, college, nursery or other suitable place;
- A structured activity or play session called the ‘Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule’ (ADOS). This assessment has different ‘modules’, which vary according to the age and abilities of the child or young person;
- A speech and language assessment.
The Autism Assessment Team then meets to discuss the findings of the assessment process. This will determine whether or not the child or young person meets the ‘International Classification of Diseases – 10’ criteria for a diagnosis of autism. We may also decide that a period of ‘watchful waiting’ is necessary and agree to review in the future.
We meet with the parent or carer and, if appropriate, the child or young person to share the outcome of the assessment. We offer follow-up appointments at six weeks for all children referred to us, and at six months for children diagnosed with autism.
We provide a post-diagnostic information pack and develop an action plan child to develop their strengths and to support their individual needs. The child or young person may also be referred to other services for ongoing support if required.
Our office hours are, for the most part, 8.30am-4.30pm, Monday-Friday
We schedule appointments throughout the week and aim to be as flexible as possible in order to provide appointments at times which are convenient for families.
Autism Diagnostic Service
Child Development Centre
24 Brompton Road
Some sessions may be offered at Thirsk Health Centre
Cherry Garth Home
Consultant Community Paediatrician: Dr Natalie Lyth
The Autism Assessment Team has a multidisciplinary staff. Clinical psychologists, speech and language therapists and occupational therapists may all be involved in the assessment. We also have case co-ordinators who guide children and their families through the process.