Worried about autism spectrum disorder? What to do

Worried about autism spectrum disorder? What to do

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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 services that can help your child. There are lots of ways to begin:

  • Contact the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) on 1800 800 110. They'll put you in touch with an NDIS early childhood partner or local area coordinator in your area.
  • Talk to other parents of a child with ASD by joining forums or parent groups.
  • Read information about ASD on this website.
  • Start researching services in your area.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a single, national scheme that funds support to help people with disability, including children with ASD, reach their goals. If your child is aged 0-6 years, you don't need a diagnosis to get support.

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 for early intervention support for your child. You can use the assessment to measure your child's progress.

For a thorough assessment and a specific ASD diagnosis, make an appointment with a professional trained in diagnosing ASD, like a psychiatrist, psychologist 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.

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.

If your child is aged 0-6 years, your child can get support through the NDIS's early childhood early intervention approach without a diagnosis. This support might be information or referral to other services like community health services, playgroups or peer support groups. Your child might also get sessions with early childhood early intervention providers in the short term.

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. You can also start services like speech pathology or occupational therapy while you're 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.