Please note: the author of this post does not identify as neurodiverse. Whilst this post attempts to utilise neuroaffiriming language, it does refer to the deficits-based model of autism (as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual –Fifth Edition – Text Revised; DSM-5-TR) in the discussion of government-funded disability services. It is not the intention of the author or ORS to cause harm, only to educate, and we apologise for any distress that may occur as a result of referencing this information. Feedback and discussion are always welcomed to ensure the community’s voice is accurately heard and represented.

Welcome to our inclusive space, where we celebrate neurodiversity. Understanding the significance of autism assessments and the support they offer neurodivergent individuals on the path of self-discovery can be transformative, yet the process and benefits might not always be clear. Whether you’re navigating the world of autism assessments for yourself or someone else, we hope to shed light on the process and to empower you with knowledge. In this article, we aim to provide clarity on the valuable aspects of making choices, embracing individuality and fostering a sense of community through neuroaffirming autism assessments.

Empowering Personal Choice: How do I determine if an assessment is needed?

First and foremost, pursuing an autism assessment is a personal choice. You have the autonomy to decide whether or not to proceed with an assessment, and it’s not obligatory. Embracing the philosophy of neurodiversity means acknowledging that an autism diagnosis isn’t a mere “label” but a unique aspect of your identity. Seeking an assessment can help you better understand yourself (or someone you know well), empowering you to advocate for your individual needs and strengths.

If you’re uncertain whether an assessment is the right choice for you, ORS welcomes you to contact us via our online enquiry form or 1800 number to connect you with one of our Registered or Endorsed Psychologists who can provide further guidance and information.

Self-Discovery & Advocacy: What can I gain from an assessment?

Identifying your autism is a significant step toward self-advocacy. By advocating for your neurodivergence, you can contribute to building a more accessible, inclusive environment (and, therefore, society) where neurodivergent individuals are valued, accommodated, and accepted, leading to fulfilling and purposeful lives.

Beyond self-discovery, seeking an autism assessment can open doors to a network of support and connection. It can serve as a gateway to accessing vital resources and services tailored to your unique needs. In Australia, schemes like the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) offer funding for autistics to ensure access to necessary supports. This can include connecting them with allied health services, including Psychology, Positive Behaviour Support, Speech Pathology, Occupational Therapy, Exercise Physiology, Physiotherapy, Dietetics & more.

However, support extends beyond financial assistance. Engaging with the autistic community and connecting with neuroaffirming organisations can provide invaluable guidance, camaraderie and a sense of belonging.

Understanding & Celebrating Individuality: What can I learn?

Autism assessments provide valuable insights into the intricate characteristics that make up each individual. Instead of focusing on deficits, we celebrate the diverse strengths and qualities that autism brings. We recognise that a diagnosis is not a limitation but an opportunity to explore the remarkable abilities and perspectives that contribute to a multifaceted and amazing individual. An assessment journey can unlock a deeper understanding of oneself and foster a sense of self-acceptance and self-advocacy.

Our understanding of autism continuously evolves as we learn more about neurodivergence.  While the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – Fifth Edition – Text Revised (DSM-5-TR) provides criteria to identify Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and is the NDIS’ preferred assessment tool for gathering evidence of disability, it is important to note that the DSM-5-TR is deficit-based. Our aim is to use neuroaffimiring language and themes. The criteria below have been adapted to reflect this:

Differences in social communication and interactions, as evidenced by

A1. Individualised patterns in social communication – e.g., preferences for clear and direct communication and discussions about special interests and areas of passion.

A2. Differences in non-verbal communication – e.g., preference to look elsewhere while talking and stimming while interacting, and context-dependent variations in speech patterns and vocalisations.

A3. Unique approaches to social relationships – e.g., “sensory-driven” methods of pursuing and developing connections, as well as preference for playing/being alone more than (or as much as) playing/being with others.

Differences in thinking and processing, as evidenced by

B1. Finding comfort and enjoyment in repetition (stimming) – e.g., listening to the same song repeatedly, engaging in rhythmic movements or vocalisations, or expressing repetitive phrases.

B2. Security in and preference for routines – e.g., deriving comfort from maintaining patterns and expectations and a tendency to prefer advanced notice of any changes.

B3. Special interests – e.g., passion for, strengths in, and hyperfocus on certain subjects/topics, alongside potential neutrality or disinterest in areas outside of special interests.

B4. Hyper- and/or hypo-reactivity to stimuli – e.g., resulting in specific sensory preferences and aversions, which may guide comfort-seeking behaviours or avoidance of discomfort.

These examples illustrate how autism may manifest for some individuals, but it is important to acknowledge that every autistic person experiences the world uniquely. Recognising and celebrating these individual experiences is central to a neuroaffirming approach. A comprehensive, neuroaffirming assessment with a trusted practitioner who understands the diverse profiles of autistic individuals ensures that your individual strengths and support needs are understood and valued.

Embracing the Assessment Journey: What will be involved?

An autism assessment is a collaborative process between you (or the individual you are assisting with their self-advocacy) and the assessor. At ORS, we have a wide-ranging team of Psychologists, either Provisional, Registrars, or Endorsed, who support you throughout the assessment journey. Our Speech Pathologists and Occupational Therapists may also be involved to offer their additional expertise in understanding your unique needs and abilities, where helpful and feasible.

An assessment typically involves

  • Explanation of the assessment process and discussion on your goals for the assessment.
  • Interviews with you, and as well as trusted individuals in your support network, to gain a comprehensive understanding of your history and experiences, with a particular focus on your early childhood.
  • Tailored activities derived from standardised assessment tools to uncover your unique perspectives, abilities, and support needs related to socialising, communicating and sensory processing.
  • Questionnaires filled out by you and/or your support network, focusing on social communication, sensory differences and individual abilities, which may assist in identifying camouflaging traits;
  • Development of a comprehensive report outlining the assessment outcome and recommendations for supports and potential funding options*, if appropriate;
  • A feedback session to discuss and celebrate your individual needs and abilities.

*Disclaimer: To ensure NDIS eligibility, the use of deficit-based assessment tools and language is often necessary to gather evidence of an individual’s disability. This is because the scheme focuses on functional abilities and impairments to determine the level of support needs. Where possible, ORS strives to prioritise the use of neuroaffirming language and themes. We recognise the importance of affirming neurodiversity and celebrating the unique perspectives and strengths of individuals. Please note that in some cases, deficit-based and non-neurodiversity-affirming language and themes may be used to address the specific eligibility requirements and ensure individuals can access the appropriate level of support they may be eligible for. Our goal is to maintain a balance that promotes both acceptance and access to necessary services.

Support & Belonging: What happens after?

The post-diagnosis period can provoke a wide range of emotions and questions for some, while for others, it may bring little change. Confirming your autism diagnosis may elicit mixed emotions, perhaps of excitement (in celebration of your unique differences), grief (on reflection of past years of being misunderstood), or relief (in making sense of who you are and your identity); everyone’s processing and healing will be different. It is essential to remember that support is available to guide you through this process. Your Psychologist will assist you with your self-disclosure (if desired) and ensure you receive resources and recommendations to support your self-understanding and advocacy. They will also support you to understand and pursue the NDIS Access Request process. But, why wait? Below, you can find a list of services, resources and community connections that may cater to your unique needs and can connect you with other neurodivergent individuals.

Purpose & Direction: Where to from here?

ORS offers autism assessments for children, adolescents and adults across various locations. Currently, we have immediate capacity for most psychological services, including autism assessments, in NSW, VIC, ACT and WA. Our autism assessments can be funded privately or through your NDIS plan, and they are conducted face-to-face either at community locations or our sites. However, some adults may be suited to telehealth assessments, which we can discuss upon receiving your enquiry or referral.

For information about our current capacity to provide psychological services and all other allied health supports, or for further guidance and information on autism and assessments, we welcome you to contact ORS using the below details to speak to a trusted staff member. Best of luck on your journey – let us know how we can support you.

Georgia Holloway, Villawood, ORS, NSW

Georgia Holloway

Psychology Clinic Manager
Registered Psychologist, BHumSc(PubHlthPlcyProm), BPsych(Hons), DipPsychPrac, GradDipPsych

To learn more about our amazing staff visit Our Expertise.