Autism Assessment Team
Our team is made up of speech and language therapists, psychologists, community paediatricians (West Berkshire), specialist mental health practitioners, specialist nurses, assistant psychologists and administrators.
If the young person is over the age of 17 1/2, please see the Berkshire Healthcare website for information on the Adult Autism Assessment Team.
Autism is a lifelong developmental condition which affects the way that individuals communicate with and relate to other people. It affects how they make sense of the world around them. People with autism often prefer routine and may struggle with change. They may have particularly intense interests and may be good at noticing patterns and small details.
People with autism frequently suffer from high levels of anxiety due to their difficulties in making sense of what is going on around them. It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways.
We can assess your child if they’re suspected of being on the autistic spectrum and are aged between one and 17½ years in West Berkshire, and five and 17½ years in East Berkshire.
There is no medical test for autism. A decision about diagnosis is made based on detailed information about the child’s early development and how they are now. This information is gathered by talking to you, an individual assessment with your child, and gathering information from school.
See our information on supporting a child or young person with Autism.
Once we receive a referral for an autism assessment, we’ll ask you and your child's pre-school/school to complete questionnaires about your child as an initial screening process to determine whether an autism assessment is the best way to meet your child's needs. These forms must be returned within three weeks.
If your returned questionnaires don’t suggest autism, our health hub team will get in touch with you to discuss signposting to other services.
If, based on the questionnaires, a referral is accepted, we’ll send you information about support available while you wait for the assessment, current waiting times and information on workshops you may like to attend. We will also provide a letter to take to your child’s school or pre-school regarding the support they may need in that setting.
There will also be an additional set of questionnaires at this stage for you and the child's school/pre-school to complete. This information is essential for your child's autism assessment and we cannot book appointments without this information.
Please note if your child is not in any educational setting, family questionnaires are sufficient.
Between questionnaire and assessment
We provide a support helpline two to three times a week for parents and carers whose child is on the waiting list for assessment.
We also offer support and help 24 hours a day through our online support network SHaRON Jupiter.
We’ll assess your child as soon as possible. But, although waiting times are reducing, there may still be a wait and we will inform you of this in your referral pack.
What happens during an assessment
Each assessment is conducted by two clinicians (sometimes three). One team member will gather information from you about your child, while the other spends time with your child to observe their communication, social interaction and play/interests. Where possible we will do this at the same time (ie you will be seen in one room and your child in another at the same time), but sometimes the appointments will be offered on separate days.
We will also review the information provided from the questionnaires completed before the assessment and from other professionals who know your child. At the end of the appointment we will discuss our findings with you. Often a decision can be made on the same day. Sometimes further information is requested and this could include a visit to school to observe the young person and discuss them with a member of staff. If this is the case we will arrange for you to come for a feedback session after the extra information has been gathered.
For more information watch our video on what to expect at an assessment
What happens after the assessment
The assessment may lead to a diagnosis of autism. If this is the case we will provide information about further sources of support and make recommendations for the support your child should receive. Once an assessment is complete, parents and carers are given information about support available at home and at school. This includes information on autism-specific parenting workshops and groups in their area, and access to specialist advisory teachers where possible. Parents will also be invited to join an online support network.
A number of children that come in for an autism assessment will not receive a diagnosis of autism. If this is the case we will discuss your child's strengths and difficulties and make recommendations about further sources of support your child should receive. This includes information on autism-specific parenting workshops and groups in the area, and access to specialist advisory teachers where possible. You’ll also be invited to join an online support network for parents and carers.
After the assessment, we will write a detailed report to summarise our findings and include all our recommendations for supporting your child both at home and in school.
If your child has other difficulties in addition to or instead of autism that may need further assessment, we will refer your child onto the relevant services.
If you are considering paying for a private assessment, it is worth bearing in mind how your school or local authority would respond to the assessment and any recommendations made, and check how the assessment will be conducted and whether it meets NICE or good practice recommendations.
If you have a private assessment, please let us know so that we can remove your child from our waiting list. If you have any difficulties following a private assessment you can send us a copy of the report, and as long as it meets good practice guidelines we will be able to write a letter stating that they do not need further assessment.
There are many conditions that can cause social communication difficulties for children and young people, including hearing, speech and language difficulties, learning difficulties, dyspraxia, depression and anxiety, bullying and emotional worries about the home. It’s important to consider these possibilities before making a referral to the Autism Assessment Team. Before referring a child for an assessment, please make sure the checks outlined below have been taken.
Pre-referral checklist for under 5s
- Confirm that the child has had a developmental check within the past 12 months
- Make sure there has been a hearing test to rule out hearing difficulties
- If there are concerns about language and communication, check if the child has been referred to Speech and Language Services, and a speech and language therapy assessment has ruled out a specific language impairment, delay or language disorder
Pre-referral checklist for 5-17½ year olds
- Make sure that needs-led support is in place within the school environment and under the supervision of the SENCO
- In cases where there is a question about a child or young person’s cognitive ability or ability to access the curriculum, check that the SENCO has discussed the difficulties with educational psychology, and that observation or assessment has been undertaken if necessary
- Check that parents have been offered parenting support and advice through school-based parenting support, Positive Parenting Programme (‘triple P’) or a family support worker
- For older children, check that difficulties with social interaction, communication and restrictive behaviours pre-date secondary school and have been present since early childhood
After completing these checks
When all these checks have been completed – and the child is showing evidence of difficulties in social interaction, social communication and repetitive and restrictive behaviours that can’t be attributed to other factors – a referral should be made to the Autism Assessment Team.
If the young person is accepted for an assessment, this pre-assessment information is vital in helping us decide about diagnosis at a later stage. If the information doesn’t support an assessment, we’ll advise the family or carer what support or assessment might be more appropriate. This reduces the chance of a young person attending an assessment they don’t need, and will allow them to access the right support more quickly.
We accept referrals from professionals who know the child or young person, including health visitors, nursery nurses, teachers, GPs, special educational needs coordinators (SENCO) and educational psychologists. Ideally, referrals should come from professionals that know the child best, such as their teacher, special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) or health visitor.
If your child is showing symptoms of autism and you’ve already worked through our pre-assessment checklist above, you can make a referral into CAMHS. You can find more information on our referral criteria here.
If your referral is urgent, please phone 0300 365 1234.
Once your child has been assessed and if they have received a diagnosis of autism, further information is available on our Support and advice pages.
CAMHS GP Referrals
Ambitious about Autism
The Autism Group
The Local Offer
Parenting Special Children
National Autistic Society - after diagnosis leaflet