Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder – or ASD – is different for every single individual. There are no two people living on the autism spectrum that are the same. Each individual has a unique view of their own world and how they respond to things.
Autism Spectrum Disorders are brain conditions that result in people learning in a different way to others. They might face challenges in how they recognise and respond to things and how they respond to emotions. People living with autism may be non-verbal or may talk a lot, and their senses might respond differently to those of other people. For example, someone living with autism might hate touching things – or they might love touching things that they shouldn’t.
People living with autism will often think about their social relationships differently, and they will often prefer to stick with the same, comfortable routine.
The word ‘spectrum’ is used because people living with autism have a wide range of experiences, and in varying degrees, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Statistics show that around 1 in 150 Australians live with autism.
ASD can be diagnosed in kids and adults
Novita’s Autism Diagnostic Service uses tools and techniques that can recognise autism, or the characteristics of autism, in kids as young as two years of age and under.
Generally, boys are usually around three to four years old when parents might notice communication and behaviour issues and seek an autism diagnosis. The symptoms might not be as obvious in girls until they’re a little older. But this doesn’t mean you should wait until your kids reach this age to get support – many families realise their kids need support much sooner.
Novita’s therapy team can also work with people who haven’t been diagnosed with autism until well into their 40s. For adults there is often a sense of relief if they’re diagnosed later in life – it can be an explanation for why they struggled at school and why they have faced particular challenges during their lives.
It’s mainly kids under 12 that visit Novita’s Autism Diagnostic Service, because the Novita team strongly believes in early intervention. The sooner kids can be identified as living on the autism spectrum, the better.
The more our therapists understand about kids living with autism, the more they can support them to learn. If an early diagnosis of autism is made, our therapists can create the best possible learning environment for them.
There has been a lot of research into early intervention for kids living with autism, and so the Novita team knows what therapies work. “More therapy” for young kids living with autism isn’t necessarily the answer.
We have a ‘key worker’ approach to early intervention. This means a Novita therapist will work closely with your family to really get to know you. They’ll even talk to schools to make sure kids living with autism have the best learning environment. The therapist will be supported by Novita’s speech pathologists, physiotherapists, psychologists, educators, social workers, and occupational therapists.
Our approach is a very child and family-centred way of helping us to fully understand the relationship between kids with autism and their families, as well as providing support for kids and families with learning experiences and developing social relationships.
Novita’s autism diagnosis process
In South Australia you need a diagnosis from two different health professionals to access government-funded services for autism. Novita has speech pathologists and psychologists working with our clinic, which means we can take care of all the diagnostic requirements you’ll need to get support for your kids, including through the NDIS.
Novita’s diagnostic process involves four separate appointments over a period of around a month.
The first appointment will just be you – the parents – talking with one of our psychologists. It might take up to three hours, because the psychologist will ask a wide range of questions about your child’s development and growth so they get an in-depth understanding about them. It’s important to bring anything that might relate to their development to this appointment, such as medical and speech pathology reports.
About a week later, an appointment will be made for your child with a Novita speech pathologist, who’ll have a play-based session with them to make sure they’re as comfortable as possible. Some kids can be quite nervous when they arrive, so this appointment is very friendly. While it feels informal, it’s a very important part of the autism diagnosis process. The speech pathologist will also have a conversation with you during the appointment to gather more information.
At this stage of the process, parents are often keen to find out what our therapists are thinking – “does my kid have autism?” It may be the case that our therapists can’t answer that question yet, so please be patient. It’s a long process because we want to be thorough.
The third appointment involves our psychologist or the speech pathologist – sometimes both – visiting your child in an environment with other kids, like their kindy or their school. It might even be in a local park where other kids are playing. The reason for this appointment is to see how your child relates to other kids in a natural environment, which can be a vital part of the autism diagnosis process.
Around a week later you’ll have a final diagnostic appointment when we’ll talk you through the process and tell you if you child meets the criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder, or if they don’t. We’ll go through our report with you to make sure our diagnosis fits with your concerns. We won’t jump to any conclusions without talking to you first. In fact, our diagnostic report is considered to be a ‘draft’ until you agree with its findings. Then we’ll start the conversation about the next steps for your family.
If you don’t already have an NDIS funding plan in place, the Novita team will help you navigate the NDIS to make sure you get the services and supports you need to make sure your family can achieve its goals.
We’ll also talk to you about the therapy support that we think will be the best for your kid. Depending on your child’s age and goals, it might be individual therapy, group therapy with other kids, or a combination of the two. The therapy will be very much based on what we all – therapists and parents – think will be best for your kid at this time of their life.
And the Novita team will talk to your kid’s kindy or school about how to create the best learning environment for them. Kindies and schools really value a formal autism diagnosis because they can adjust learning for your child, and they can get extra funding to provide more support for their students living with autism. The Novita therapists work with many schools across the state.
What if there isn’t a diagnosis of ASD?
Sometimes the autism diagnosis process will show that your child doesn’t meet the criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder. This can be a more complex result for parents and schools, because the situation may still be unclear and unknown.
While a diagnosis of autism can be confronting for many parents, it can bring a level of relief – they now know that their kid is living with autism, and they can seek the necessary supports. It can be much more confusing for parents if the diagnosis is a ‘no’. If it’s not autism, then what is it?
Even if the result is a ‘no’, our therapists would have learned a lot about your child during the diagnosis process, and we will be able to make some recommendations about the next steps for you. It might mean some more work on your kid’s sensory responses, or checking their learning environment, or being assessed for developmental delay.
Autism diagnosis for adults
If you’re an adult wanting to visit Novita’s Autism Diagnostic Service, an individualised process will be developed for you to determine if you are living on the autism spectrum or not.
You won’t need a referral from a GP or other health professional to make an appointment with our Autism Diagnostic Service. Just make an enquiry now or call 1300 668 482 for more information.
Medicare rebates may be available for you if you get a referral from a paediatrician – but only going through a paediatrician can provide this, not a GP. So visiting a paediatrician before coming to Novita may be a good idea, especially if you need some financial support.
However, we’re happy for you to contact us directly. Putting an extra step in the process can sometimes delay it.
Check the NDIS website for more information about the Scheme, including eligibility criteria.