Assessing and Supporting Autism

One in 100 Australians has autism – and we have much to learn.

Autism is a lifelong developmental condition that affects, among other things, the way an individual relates to his or her environment and interacts with others. It can be a condition of ‘extremes’ where an individual can experience ‘too much’ of something (eg extra sensitivity to noise) or ‘too little’ of other things (eg social understanding).

Learning that you have, or your child has, autism, can be confronting. For some, it is traumatic as they realise the future they had envisaged may now be affected by limitations. For others, a positive diagnosis can signal relief, as it provides clarity and understanding around difficulties being experienced. 

An autism diagnosis opens doors to services that support an individual’s ability to interact socially and improve understanding and functioning in personal relationships, school and work.

As Manager of CatholicCare’s Counselling, Family and Clinical Services Team, I am proud to offer Autism assessment services for children, adolescents and adults. CatholicCare’s assessment aims to determine whether an individual meets criteria for autism and to provide information about his/her presentation and support needs. Not only do people with autism need support in difficulties, they also have many strengths due to the unique way they see the world. We work with families in enhancing these strengths.

CatholicCare’s assessment process involves approximately four face-to-face sessions. The initial consultation provides an opportunity to gather background information from caregivers and child/adult client and if appropriate, ask questions as part of a screening process. Questionnaires may also be provided to give to a child’s teacher – allowing us to gain an idea of the child’s functioning outside the home. The second session centres on a more formal diagnostic interview with parents/caregivers. Thirdly, when assessing the child or adult client, we incorporate a structured play observation, using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule. Finally, we invite the client, and if appropriate, caregivers, to a feedback session to review the results of the assessment.

Copies of the report, which includes recommendations for further support, will be provided. With the client’s permission, the report can be used by government agencies, schools, respite care and other services to determine eligibility for funding or other support. Further support may include counselling or social skills training through CatholicCare or referral to one of our partner agencies, perhaps for speech or occupational therapy.

CatholicCare also provides review assessments for individuals who already have a diagnosis of autism when information is required − at times of transition, to review progress and guide interventions, to support funding applications and to access the NDIS. 

We understand that autism not only affects the individual, but also loved ones. Accordingly, CatholicCare is committed to supporting families develop an enhanced understanding of autism. This assists families to build stronger relationships and provides the individual with greater support.

To learn more about CatholicCare’s autism and other assessments, please visit the CatholicCare website.

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Tanya Russell

Tanya Russell is CatholicCare's Assistant Director and a registered psychologist.

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