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Referral criteria


Our autism service is for children and young people aged between two years and four months and 17 years and six months. They must be registered with a GP in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire and be identified as having needs that may be associated with autism that are significantly impacting their daily life despite support and intervention.

Referrals must contain all following information:

  • Evidence of difficulties in the areas of development, including social communication and interaction, and restricted and repetitive behaviours.
  • Evidence these difficulties significantly impact the child/young person’s daily life.
  • Evidence of the difficulties the child or young person experiences at home and at nursery/ school/ college.
  • Information on interventions and support implemented and how well these have worked.

All referrals need to include a completed Social Communication Questionnaire from home and from another setting.

Referrals that are not accepted include:

  • Referrals missing essential paperwork.
  • Referrals where features associated with autism are not described or are more likely to be due to other factors.
  • Referrals that provided a description of an autism profile, but the level of functional difficulties is low or there is no information about support and interventions to help the child.
  • Referrals for young people who are over the age of 17 years and six months will not be accepted. These referrals should be sent to Bristol Autism Spectrum Service (BASS) for Adults.

See our making a referral page for more information on how to make a referral and for referral forms and supporting documents.

Private assessment or diagnosis from another country

The Specialist Autism Assessment Service does not routinely reassess children that have been given a diagnosis privately or from a different country. We would suggest that services consider the needs identified in the report and identify how these could be addressed within the resources available to them.

Information on local services is available on our advice and signposting page. 

Because of the long waits within the NHS, families may decide to seek a private assessment. The Private Provider Document outlines what to look for to ensure quality in a private provider.

Autism Needs identified as part of another assessment where a formal diagnostic assessment has not taken place

There are a number of organisations and individuals that carry out needs assessments for children and give recommendations. Some of the reports include very useful information and strategies that are helpful to educational settings and families. We would recommend that families discuss these with their educational setting and a plan is made within the available resource to support the child or young person.

Some reports make recommendations for the child or young person to be assessed for autism. Further autism assessment is only available from our autism service if they fulfil the referral criteria. Children that meet the referral criteria will join the waiting list for assessment in the normal way. The observations of the child made during the private assessment may be included as evidence in the final report.

Features associated with autism such as difficulties with social communication, sensory needs and rigid and repetitive behaviours are common in the general population and may be present for a number of different reasons.  Some children and young people where needs have been identified in the private assessment will not meet the threshold for an autism diagnosis when they have their full assessment.

Requests for reassessment

Requests for reassessment will only be considered if the children and young people meet the referral criteria and there is new evidence to support reassessment.

Further assessment for autism is not usually considered within 24 months of a previous assessment but can be considered in exceptional cases within 12 months if there is sufficient clear new evidence gathered. A new referral will be required for children where a reassessment is being requested. Please include in the referral that a previous assessment has been carried out since it may be possible to do a modified assessment rather than starting the process again.

The needs of a child and young person should be appropriately met whether they have a diagnosis or not. This may include use of strategies and advice that is known to be effective in children with an autism diagnosis.

Further assessment after an “uncertain” or “inconclusive” outcome

For some children and young people there is evidence that they have needs around autism however it is not possible to be certain that they are autistic. This maybe because they have a mix of strengths and needs, their presentation varies in different situations or there are other challenges for the child that are also important. In these cases they may be given an “uncertain” or “inconclusive” outcome. Children change as they develop and the situation can be clearer when they are older.

The child or young person’s needs will be identified in the report and this can be used by education and other agencies to help get  support.

Children and young people that are given an “uncertain” outcome are given the option of requesting a review. The report will give a time period when this can happen. Updated information outlining any changes in behaviour and presentation are required with this request.