1. Autism
  2. Learning about ASD
  3. Assessment & diagnosis

Worried about autism spectrum disorder? What to do

0-8 years

You know your child best. If you’re worried about autism spectrum disorder (ASD), don’t be afraid to act. This article outlines the first steps you can take to seek help.

1. Make an appointment with a health professional

If you think your child has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it’s good to act quickly and make an appointment with a professional. For example, you could talk to your child and family health nurse, your GP or a paediatrician.

If the professional doesn’t have any concerns about your child, but you’re still worried, it’s OK to ask for a second opinion from another doctor. The sooner you find out your child has ASD, the sooner you can help him.

2. Learn about autism spectrum disorder services

Right away, even while you wait for an appointment, it’s good to start learning about autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and the different services available. There are lots of ways to begin:

3. Get an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis

Have your child assessed for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and get an assessment report as early as you can. A thorough assessment is important for an accurate diagnosis. It helps to think of assessment as a benchmark or starting point – you can use it to measure your child’s progress later when your child starts using interventions.

For a thorough assessment and a specific ASD diagnosis, make an appointment with a professional trained in diagnosing ASD, like a psychiatristpsychologist or paediatrician. You might need a referral from your child’s nurse or GP.

You can read more about getting an ASD diagnosis to help you understand how professionals diagnose ASD.


Autism spectrum disorder assessment


In this video a psychologist and a speech pathologist talk about what happens in an assessment for autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

As part of ASD assessment, health professionals use activities like puzzles, games and pretend play to observe a child’s behaviour, social skills and communication. They also talk to parents to find out about the child’s early development.

Note that the professionals in this video refer to ASD as autism.

4. Start early intervention for autism spectrum disorder

The sooner a child gets early intervention for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the more effective these interventions are likely to be. Experts recommend early intervention for all preschool children with ASD – the earlier the better.

Some services like PlayConnect playgroups will let you start programs and therapies without a diagnosis. Or you might be able to get a place on a waiting list for services while you wait for your child’s formal assessment. And if your child needs services like speech pathology or occupational therapy, she can start these while waiting for the assessment.

You can read more about types of interventions or see our Parent Guide to Therapies.

For more information about ASD and how to support your child’s early development, you could take part in an Early Days workshop. You can also contact your state or territory autism association about attending an Early Days face-to-face workshop in your area.

5. Read, talk, ask questions

The more you find out about interventions and your options the better. You can read about choosing interventions and how interventions are tested.

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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