We are a specialist multidisciplinary NHS team comprising of Psychology, Nursing and Occupational Therapy.
What is Autism
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) refers to difficulties in social communication and interaction and restrictive and repetitive patterns of behaviours and interests. Autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental condition which means that the differences associated with autism are present throughout a person’s life. Although autism is a neurodevelopment disorder and is present throughout life it may not always be detected in childhood. This could be for a number of reasons, including masking/camouflaging of symptoms, symptoms not been picked up, or the child receiving another related diagnosis, whilst the underlying autism goes undiagnosed.
It is estimated that more than one in 100 people are autistic, an estimated 1.1% of the population. There are around 700,000 adults and children with autism in the UK.
Referral and Acceptance Criteria
When deciding whether someone is appropriate for our service, we will be assessing the referral information in accordance with DSM-5 criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder. (i.e. persistent deficits in social interaction and social communication, and restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviours and interests).
We are only able to accept referrals made by a GP or a Health Professional. (Our referral form can be downloaded at the bottom of this page along with DSM-5 criteria diagnostic criteria).
You can find advice for seeing your doctor if you think you may be autistic at https://www.autism.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/topics/diagnosis/prediagnosis/adults#:~:text=Explain%20your%20situation&text=You%20could%20say%20that%20you%20think%20you%20experience%20some%20of,social%20interaction
The team holds weekly referral meetings, following which the referrer and client will be contacted regarding the outcome of their referral. There is currently a waiting time to triage new referrals as we continue to manage the unforeseen difficulties due to COVID, staffing and an increase in referrals.
In some cases, we may contact the referrer or client to request further information before we are able to reach a decision about further clinical assessment.
Waiting list for assessment
Waiting times for assessment are approximately 24 months following acceptance of a referral. In certain cases, we may be able to prioritise referrals if there is a strong clinical reason to do so. We would advise referrers to contact us if a person’s circumstances change and they believe that the referral needs to be prioritised.
Assessment for Autism
When we receive a referral, we will check to see if there is enough evidence suggestive of autism. If so, we will place you on our waiting list for assessment. If we are not sure, we may request further information.
The assessment process will typically be divided into three parts. The first contact will involve meeting with you to find out more about, what your strengths are, what you find difficult and how this may link to autism. You are welcome to bring someone with you to support you at the appointment. If you need any adjustments to be put in place for the meeting, please let us know ahead of your appointment. By the end of this meeting, which will usually take up to two hours, we will either suggest more assessment sessions, or if we find that autism is not indicated we would hope to signpost you elsewhere for help and support if we can.
If we suggest further assessment we will, where possible, arrange to meet with someone who has known you since you were young, often a parent, sibling or other relative. We will also meet with you again to carry out further assessment, before making a decision about a diagnosis.
When you have completed an assessment, we will arrange to meet with you to offer feedback, talk through the assessment, and signpost you to other services (where appropriate).
If you are given a diagnosis, we will offer a follow up appointment approximately 6 months after your diagnosis, as we recognise that it can take time to process and make sense of this information.
Post Diagnostic Support
We are primarily an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnostic service, however we do offer the following post diagnostic support:
- We have a monthly online drop-in service which takes place on the first Wednesday of the month between 1pm-2.30pm (except in July and August) via Microsoft Teams. This is an opportunity to meet informally with other autistic adults to share ideas and experiences, with an agreed topic for discussion each month.
- The Tree of Life Group. This is an opportunity for people with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to meet with others to share their stories and talk about their strengths, abilities, and values. The Tree of Life Group has been found to be a very positive approach that has been used in different countries across the world. The Tree of Life uses the idea of a tree to represent a person’s life and helps them to think and talk about different parts of their lives and how they connect, in a hopeful and positive way. In the group, people draw their own trees and write words to help describe each part of their life.
- A resource and information pack. This pack outlines a range of resources and support services that may be available to you. Your family and the people that support you may also find this useful.
Please note: This is an Adults only service. If you would like information in relation to the Child Neurodevelopmental Service, please contact: The Child Neurodevelopmental Service (Somerset) ChildNDS@somersetft.nhs.uk or call 01823 346127.