By: Bridget Wieckowski, PsyD
The process of receiving autism evaluations for children and adults can be intimidating. Most folks do not have previous experiences of being assessed for something as personal as their identity, and you may be very curious yet anxious about what exactly to expect from a psychological assessment. For parents of a child being assessed, there is often curiosity about their child’s future or whether testing will have answers to all of the possible things going on. For adults, there may be self-doubt or hesitancy about seeking a diagnosis and/or fear of judgment or invalidation from others. All of these concerns are valid and the goal of our assessments at Uplift Psychology Group is to help you feel at ease and welcome to share your life experience so that we can provide additional insight and clarity around your past and present to plan for your future.
At its core, an autism evaluation is a great opportunity to make sense of past experiences you have had (including all those years in school trying to make friends or trying to keep up with academics) while thinking about aspects you would like to change or work on. The things you would like to change may be driven by work, school, social media, or society at large; our job is to help use this information to identify ways to lessen your emotional and social burden. The testing process can also be thought of as a conversation that is supported by data – data that is both quantitative (screeners and actual tests) and qualitative (stories, examples, and behaviors such as fidgeting or stimming). For parents, this means having discussions about things you’ve noticed your child doing or saying – and for adults it means reflecting on what you have been through that has gotten you to today.
More specifically, for children, receiving an autism diagnosis can be an excellent first step towards receiving support for sensory needs, building motor skills, and expanding communication. It can also be an opportunity for family members to learn new ways to support and validate their child. The process for evaluating a child is quite comprehensive – there is often a number of hours of ‘formal’ testing that assess a child’s thinking, social, and emotional abilities. There are also ‘informal’ ways of observing a child’s behavior and seeing how they interact and play with familiar family members and with a stranger (the assessor). Other diagnoses commonly considered when assessing for autism include ADHD, sensory processing disorders, social communication disorder, anxiety, depression, learning disorders, and intellectual disability. Based on the findings, whether they be related to autism or not, we provide personalized recommendations to help you explore next steps.
For many adults, the road to seeking an autism evaluation may have been full of twists and turns. Often times, adults report initially being told by a loved one or therapist that they may be autistic due to troubles socializing, feeling over- or underwhelmed by sensory stimuli, big emotional expression or reactivity, flattened or difficult to read face expressions, or literal interpretations of things (i.e., taking a joke seriously or not recognizing changes in voice tone). Sometimes adults recognized these differences in their youth when comparing themselves to their peers but the adults or support figures around them did not recognize or act on them – this pattern seems to most commonly happen with those assigned female at birth. It can be overwhelming, shocking, and at the same time validating, to finally receive answers or clarity around this in adulthood. It is never too late to seek out testing around an experience you have been questioning.
If you have been wanting to be evaluated for autism or are curious to learn more contact us today. We have many options available ranging from comprehensive full assessments to specific “mini” evaluations. You can reach out to us by phone at (408) 680-1441 for a free phone or video consultation!