Child playing with a toy train whilst wearing headphones

Diagnosis in children

There are multiple options when exploring an autism assessment for children. These may include Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Health Visitors and GP or Paediatrician. Waiting lists for assessments vary across Trust areas. 

In addition, there are several independent providers of assessment across Northern Ireland. The cost of any private assessment can vary, so it’s a good idea to phone several and ask what costs are involved and what the cost covers. It is also important to check if your Health Trust has previously accepted the provider’s diagnostic reports and whether there is any follow-up early support offered.

Following a diagnosis, parents may experience a range of emotions about the needs of their child. It is important to recognise that the period immediately following an autism confirmation is one of adjustments. As you gather more knowledge and understanding about autism, your confidence will grow and with it the recognition that you are the greatest, all-round expert on your autistic child.

Actively seek out people who are knowledgeable and consider what they have to say. Take time to look up early support options and decide what is best for your child and family. Above all never lose sight of the individual autistic child at the centre of any proposed support.

Woman smiles for a photograph while outdoors

Diagnosis in adults

Autism is lifelong and there are many autistic adults within Northern Ireland, however, prevalence figures for adults are often outdated and inaccurate. Many autistic people have only received a later diagnosis of autism, as knowledge of autism has increased. 

Many autistic adults report seeking assistance after recognising the struggles they endured across their life, as being caused by their unsupported neurodivergence. Often after supporting a loved one through the process of an assessment and realising they are just like them in lots of ways.

There are also those who self-identify or recognise that they have autistic traits but who have not progressed a formal assessment or diagnosis. Barriers continue to exist such as issues with being referred for an adult diagnostic assessment and waiting times (in some geographical locations this exceeds five years).

As far back as I can remember I had intricate thoughts and ideas which have made me unique.

As a young child in early primary school, I used to spend most of my time just doing my own thing and not really making much sense to people. My ever-intriguing thoughts and ideas were locked up in my head and I couldn’t communicate them with others.
Marc Segal, 'Coping: A Survival Guide'

Increasingly, there are many adults who seek a formal autism assessment to give them answers, further information, and access to support. Often, the first step of this process is to visit your GP and request a referral for adult autism assessment through your Health and Social Care Trust. There are also private assessment and diagnosis options available. 

Further Information

If you would like further information and support regarding adult diagnosis, please contact our Family Support Team on 028 9040 1729 (Option 1).