What is Autism?
The Child Development Service is a Canberra based service that provides residents in the ACT with free Autism assessments for children aged 0-12. A referral from a Paediatrician or Psychiatrist is required.
Autism Spectrum Disorder is characterised by persistent deficits in social communication and interaction across multiple areas. Difficulties with restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour also impact everyday functioning (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition (DSM-5)).
Some common signs of Autism may include:
- Not responding to their name by 12 months of age
- Not pointing to objects of interest by 14 months of age
- Not playing pretend games (e.g. feeding a doll) by 18 months of age
- Avoiding eye contact and wanting to be alone
- Having trouble understanding the thoughts and feelings of others (and perhaps personal space)
- Difficulties with social interactions
- Uses few or no gestures (e.g. waving goodbye)
- Repeating the same words or actions over and over
- Becoming upset by minor changes
- Have obsessive interests
- Hand flapping, rocking body or spinning in circles
- Unusual reactions to the way that things sound, smell, taste, look or feel
Source - Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
Autism consists of a diverse range of behaviours and can be very different between individuals, therefore people with Autism may have some or all of these difficulties.
How is Autism Assessed?
The Child Development Service follows best practice evidence based standards in conducting its assessments. Our multi-disciplinary team comprises of Psychologists, Speech Pathologists and Occupational Therapists with additional training and experience in the field of Autism.
We use a selection of the following tools and methods during the assessment process which may include the following:
- Detailed developmental and family history
- Autism Diagnostic Interview – Revised (ADI-R)
- Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule – 2nd Edition (ADOS-2)
- School/Childcare/Playgroup/Home Observations
- Review of paediatric/medical/academic records
- Additional speech/cognitive/functional testing as required
Who is Eligible for Assessment?
Children up to 12 years of age who live in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and have a referral from their paediatrician or psychiatrist.
There is no fee for this assessment.
Autism Assessment Referral Process
Discuss any concerns you may have about your child’s development with your child’s paediatrician or psychiatrist. If indicated your child’s paediatrician or psychiatrist may choose to refer to the Child Development Service for an Autism Assessment.
Referrals for Autism Assessment by these medical professionals can be directed to the Child Development Intake Service on phone 6207 8884, facsimile 6205 1266 or email Child.Development@act.gov.au.
Your paediatrician or psychiatrist can also provide you with information about private autism assessment if you wish to pursue this option.
Please note – If your child does not have a paediatrician they will need to be referred to one by a GP. Paediatricians are available through the private sector OR ACT Health Community Paediatricians. You can contact ACT Health Community Paediatricians through the Community Health Intake number on 6207 9977.
The Child Development Service will write to you to confirm that we have received the referral, and to let you know about you about any additional information that may be required before an assessment can be arranged. This information forms a necessary part of the assessment process.
Additional information includes:
- A Medical Assessment by your child’s referring paediatrician or psychiatrist
We will require a report that addresses your child’s current developmental concerns. This will be provided to the Child Development Service following their initial assessment.
- A hearing assessment for children under 7 years of age.
Hearing assessments can be arrange through ACT Health Audiometrists via contacting Community Health Intake on ph:6207 9977.
Alternatively you can access a private audiologist or contact Australian Hearing.
- A recent developmental assessment (less than 12 months old) or cognitive assessment (less than 2 years old)
How to access this assessment:
- Your school counsellor or psychologist may conduct this assessment if your child is in an educational setting e.g. preschool or school
- If your child is under 5 and is not in an education setting please notify the Child Development Service regarding the developmental/ cognitive assessment to discuss options.
Once all of the required information is received, we will write to you to confirm that your child has been added to the Autism Assessment waiting list.
We will call you by phone when an appointment becomes available to arrange the assessment appointments.
Please be aware that waiting periods will apply before your child is able to be offered an assessment with our team.
Autism Assessment Process
Parents or carers will be invited to attend a structured interview to obtain detailed developmental and family history with the assessing psychologist.
Observations of your child will be arranged with members of our multidisciplinary team. This may include a structured play based assessment at our service AND/OR an observations of your child in a natural environment such as their child care centre or school.
We may gain your permission to speak with other people in your child’s life that know them well e.g. school teacher or paediatrician.
The multidisciplinary team will consider all information gathered and reach a decision.
The assessing psychologist will discuss the outcome of the assessment with you and your family. You will receive a comprehensive report which will include recommendations and appropriate referral if required.
Families will be offered referral to the Child Development Service social workers and/or offered a Post Diagnosis Autism workshop as needed.
Concerned about possible Autism symptoms?
ASDetect is a free app that assists parents and caregivers to assess the social attention and communication behaviours of their children younger than 2½ years (between 11 and 30 months).
This video-led self-assessment app is based on comprehensive, rigorous, world-class research conducted at the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre.
The Marymead Autism Centre is based in Canberra and provides a wide variety of services in additional to information including Early Days workshops, support and social groups as well as NDIS preplanning and coordination support. Please note that you or your child do not need to already have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis to access our services, we can help you with the process of getting an ASD diagnosis.
An online resource developed to provide support for school-aged students with Autism. There is information for parents and carers as well as for teachers and schools with the goal to improve outcomes for school-aged students on the autism spectrum both at home and in school.
A single online gateway to Autism resources, tools and publications. The website contains up-to-date information from the early years through to adulthood and includes research papers and a wide range of resources for the Autism community, service providers, educators and clinicians.
More information about Autism Spectrum Disorder
Raising Children Network is an Australian website with evidence based information on a range of ASD related topics.