Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder. It is lifelong and is described as a spectrum due to the varied nature of how it impacts people lives.
Autism affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them.
In Forth Valley any adult seeking assessment for Autism should first of all see their GP. The GP will carry ask some question about how long the person has had these symptoms and how much they impact on daily life. They will then carry out a short screening questionnaire and if the person meets criteria they will either refer on to the appropriate team.
The options are:
- local Mental Health Team (if there is a co morbid mental health condition)
- Psychology if the person is experiencing psychological distress eg, trauma, sever anxiety, ptsd or there is a query about whether they may have a another neurodevelopmental condition that also requires assessment.
- If the person does not have any of the above 2 requirements then they will be refered to the Adult Autism Assessment Team.
- The person can also seek private assessment.
- The GP may also advise that they do not meet the screening criteria and refer to another service for advice or assessment.
- If the person has a Learning Disability or are a child then they will be referred to the local Learning Disability team or CAMHS team.
- If the person is over 65 then they will be referred to Older peoples psychiatry.
In order to receive a diagnosis of Autism it is necessary to have an assessment from an experienced clinician who is able to differentiate Autism from other conditions which may present in a similar way. Diagnosis will be dependent on meeting the following specific criteria (below).
International Classification of Diseases version 10 (ICD-10).
The ICD-10 is the most commonly-used diagnostic manual in the UK.
It presents a number of possible autism profiles, such as childhood autism, atypical autism and Asperger syndrome. These profiles are included under the Pervasive Developmental Disorders heading, defined as “A group of disorders characterized by qualitative abnormalities in reciprocal social interactions and in patterns of communication, and by a restricted, stereotyped, repetitive repertoire of interests and activities. These qualitative abnormalities are a pervasive feature of the individual’s functioning in all situations”.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5)
The manual defines autism spectrum disorder as “persistent difficulties with social communication and social interaction” and “restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviours, activities or interests” (this includes sensory behaviour), present since early childhood, to the extent that these “limit and impair everyday functioning”.
In DSM-5, the terms ‘autistic disorder’, ‘Asperger disorder’, ‘childhood disintegrative disorder’ and ‘Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)’ have been replaced by the collective term ‘autism spectrum disorder’. This means that it’s likely that ‘autism spectrum disorder’ (ASD) will become the most commonly given diagnosis.
Advice and Guidance
If you have Autism, think you may have Autism or care for someone with Autism and would like more advice about the condition and how to manage some of the areas of life you find challenging follow the links to the National Autistic society and Scottish Autism (based in Alloa). Local carers centres can also offer support and advice.