I think my child might have Autism. How do I get a diagnosis?


I think my child might have Autism. What next?

Speak to your GP and request a referral for a diagnostic assessment. Depending on where in New Zealand you are based, this may be done through a public or private provider. Again, depending on location, waitlists for public diagnostic assessments can be longer than 12 months.


Who diagnoses Autism?

In New Zealand, a diagnosis of Autism can be done by a Developmental Paediatrician, Psychiatrist, or Clinical Psychologist. However, the most ideal would be if the diagnosis is done by a multidisciplinary team experienced in Autism i.e. at least two or three of;

  • Paediatrician

  • Psychiatrist

  • Clinical Psychologist

  • Speech Language Therapist

  • Occupational Therapist


What happens during the assessment?

Typically, a diagnostic assessment consists of;

  • Interview with the family/whanau to discuss the child's’ development and family history.

  • Observation of the child in different settings.

  • Medical evaluation of the child.

  • Assessment, including; cognition, communication, behaviour, mental health, sensory needs.

  • Interviews with other relevant people e.g. child’s teacher.


What is the DSM-5 criteria?

DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is used to diagnose behavioural and mental conditions. The 5th edition (DSM-5) was released in 2013.

In order to get a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder your child must;

  • Show persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction

  • Have restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests, or activities

  • Have symptoms present in the early years

  • Have symptoms causing clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning.

  • Have disturbances that are not better explained by an intellectual disability or global developmental delay.

Your child’s diagnosis will then be specified according to significance;

  • Level 3 - requiring very substantial support

  • Level 2 - requiring substantial support

  • Level 1 - requiring support

The diagnostic team will write a report for you outlining a diagnosis (whether your child has Autism, another difficulty/disorder, or no diagnosis).


What next?

It is likely your child will require different services such as Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Behaviour Therapy, or Psychology. At Acorn Autism, we offer all of these services under one roof, meaning faster, easier, integrated and more coordinated access to services.

Parents, primary caregivers and clients are part of the team alongside clinicians. Clinicians will work with you to determine the best therapy plan for your family based on your chosen goals, as well as their expertise and experience.

For more information on diagnosis, what it means, and how we can support you and your family, contact Acorn Autism.

Note: The above information is not meant to diagnose or treat, and should not take the place of personal consultation, as appropriate, with a qualified professional.