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Information about the autism assessment

Information about the autism assessment


The autism assessment considers the range of reasons a child or young person may be presenting differently.  Not all children assessed will be given a diagnosis of autism. Some will not meet diagnostic thresholds. Others will be given an inconclusive outcome with a suggestion that further assessment may be required after the child has developed further. In all assessments needs and strengths the child presents with will be identified and there may be recommendations around these.

It is important not to wait for this assessment before supporting the child or young person in the areas of difficulty. Most interventions do not require a diagnosis first.

When my child will be seen?

The waiting list for an autism assessment is very long and it may take a few years before your child will have an assessment

Children and young people are added to the waiting list when they are first referred to our service and the majority are invited for an assessment when they reach the top of the list.  We recognise all children are different and we choose the most appropriate type of assessment for them.

Reasons why a child may be seen sooner than other children referred at a similar time,  or why an assessment may take longer are outlined in the waiting list document.

The assessment

An assessment includes:

  • Information gathered from education setting, family and other people that may know the child
  • Detailed history, examination and observations by a team of professionals such as paediatricians, speech and language therapists and occupational therapists, specialist nurses and practitioners. See our document with details about the autism assessment service.
  • Professional discussion and formulation of the child’s strengths and needs.
  • Feedback of findings with the family
  • A report will be sent with the outcome of the assessment:

The report will give the outcome of the assessment; identify the individuals strengths and needs; and give an action plan summarising the next steps. If there are other relevant conditions these may also be mentioned.

There are three possible outcomes for an assessment:

  • An autism diagnosis is given.
  • An outcome of ‘not autism’ is given. The child or young person may have some needs associated with autism but not enough for a diagnosis or there may be another reason for their differences.
  • The assessment is uncertain/inconclusive. In these cases autism has not been ruled out but the child needs to be given time to develop and grow whilst being supported in their areas of need. When older it is often clearer whether autism is the right diagnosis and families will be given an opportunity for a review within a specified time period.

Find out more information about the autism assessment process. You can also see details of autism assessment outcomes.


We carry out a detailed assessment of each child or young person, and the type of appointment will depend on their need. Appointments may take place by telephone, video, face to face in a clinic, school or in a few cases the home setting.

Appointment invitations will include information about the type of appointment offered and how to get to your appointment, including public transport details. Please contact the service for more information.

Where can we get support whilst waiting for an assessment?

Find out more on our advice and signposting page. You do not need an autism diagnosis to use strategies that have been recognised to help children and young people with autism if these are helpful and appropriate.

What if the situation changes while waiting for assessment?

Over time the needs of a child and young person changes. If the difficulties have increased significantly and the young person now meets prioritisation criteria. Complete the Prioritisation Request Form and send to You will be asked to outline what interventions have been put in place to help understand and support the child alongside how they have responded to these interventions.

Children that have needs in line with autism and are non-verbal are already in a priority criteria. A form should only be completed for these children if there are additional priority areas.

Even children with high level of needs that meet the prioritisation criteria may need to wait for a long time before assessment and so it is important not to wait for the assessment before getting support.

Can the children and young people get additional educational support without a diagnosis?

Yes. Educational support should be around a child and young person’s needs and not their diagnosis.

Can I apply for additional benefits and allowances without a diagnosis?

Yes. Benefits and allowances are given according to a child’s need and not diagnosis.

What happens after the assessment?

The Report will outline any specific recommendations.  After the assessment the child or young person will be discharged from the Autism Assessment Service. Further support available is outlined in the advice and signposting page. 

Can I have a Second Opinion if I am not happy with the outcome of the assessment?

A second opinion is a review around the process of the autism assessment. This may be considered if a family or young person is concerned that the assessment was not conducted appropriately, or information provided at the time was not considered. Families should wait until they have received their assessment report before requesting a second opinion.

A second opinion is not the same as a planned reassessment of a child when there is an ‘inconclusive diagnostic outcome’.

A reassessment from ‘inconclusive diagnostic outcome’ happens a year or more after the initial assessment to allow further development of both the child’s strengths and potential needs. A second opinion is not usually appropriate for children and young people who have received an ‘inconclusive diagnostic outcome’ because they will be reassessed as part of their pathway.

Do you need a second opinion:

Before asking for a second opinion, it is worth asking your clinical team to go over the assessment and the plan to explain anything you don’t understand. If you have concerns, do discuss this with them. Your assessment team will be happy to explain things and, in many cases, there may be no need for a second opinion.

Am I eligible for a second opinion:

The service will offer a second opinion for all children and young people who have had a yes or no diagnosis, where there is information to suggest that the assessment process did not meet guidance.

A second opinion is not offered for children and young people where the outcome is ‘inconclusive diagnostic outcome’. (See above)

Who can request a second opinion:

Second opinions can be requested by a young person or their parents/carers.

If you are requesting a second opinion for your child, this must be done with their consent if they are at an age and developmental level to provide this.

Second Opinion process:

All requests should be made directly to the Autism Assessment Service co-ordinators.

The second opinion process will involve a different clinician undertaking a clinical records review of the assessment and any interventions undertaken. This will include consideration of the following:
• Did the assessing clinician have all the relevant information required to make the decision?
• Was the consultation/assessment of adequate quality?
• Was the outcome and plan communicated appropriately to the family/child?
• If there are any identified concerns about the above an alternative plan will be made to address these.

Following this review, you will receive written communication regarding the outcome and whether further actions need to be completed.

Further Requests:

If you feel that the above process does not address your concerns, you may request a second opinion with repeat assessment from another clinician. Here are the routes you can consider for this:
• Further opinion through Sirona. This can be a re-referral through the autism assessment service referral pathway. This will be treated as a new referral and be subject to the same referral criteria and waiting times as other children being referred for new assessments.
• You can discuss with your GP referral to an alternative NHS-funded provider, including out of Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) region, for consideration.
• You can consider a private provider assessment either by self-referral or via your GP. Please note that costs for private assessments are not usually covered by NHS funding and are not reimbursed by Sirona or your GP. Also note that funding for medication prescribed by private providers may not be covered by your GP or the NHS and you are advised to discuss costs and arrangements for any medication prescription with the private provider.