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Autistic Lens

6 Steps to Getting an Adult Autism Assessment in BC

April 5th, 2023

Aly Laube

For Everyone

It can be challenging to get an adult autism assessment in BC. According to a recent AutismBC survey, many people want to get assessed but can’t. More than half of the survey respondents don’t know where to start. We hope the following suggestions can guide you in the right direction.

Do a self-assessment 

Check if you might be autistic by using self-assessment tools. You can find a few of these on our website or by reading reliable sources like academic journals and newspapers. Rely on empirically validated tests instead of random self-help tests you find online. Some good options are the Autism Quotient or the RAADS–R. 

Talk to your doctor 

Ask your family doctor if they can refer you to a psychiatrist who can assess you for autism or try contacting your local mental health services to see if they can help. Sometimes, they may even pay for the assessment if you’re already getting counselling from them. Note that this is quite uncommon but worth a shot if you’re unsure about your eligibility. 

Before you visit your doctor, consider preparing some notes that include your history, autism-related behaviour, and any self-assessments that might be helpful. However, just because you do your due diligence doesn’t mean your doctor will be able to help you. Unfortunately, whether or not you get referred and how much kindness you receive depends on who you’re seeing. It can be difficult to predict how a doctor’s visit will go, but setting yourself up for success ahead of time can improve your chances of getting what you need. 

Make sure you find someone who is neurodiversity-affirming, which means understanding that there are different types of brains and accepting that people interact with the world around them in different ways. Neurodiversity-affirming care often stems from a strengths-based approach to autism rather than a deficit-based one. 

A therapist listening to a patient (Pexels/RODNAE Productions).
A therapist listening to a patient (Pexels/RODNAE Productions).

Have the assessment 

Expect to have two to three sessions where you talk with the assessor and do some evaluations. They may also talk to your family or loved ones. That means you’ll need to ask someone in your family — usually your parents or childhood caregivers — to go with you or take private calls with your assessor to explain their perspective on your behaviour and history. There may also be written questions to answer and forms to complete outside of the sessions. 

We’ve chatted with Dr. Grace Iarocci and Dr. David Worling, two dedicated and experienced diagnosticians to find out what the Assessment Process is like in BC. As of now, there is no standardized process for diagnosing autism in adults. Clinicians adapt the diagnostic measures that were originally designed for children when diagnosing adults. 

There are four components:   

  1. The first part is a structured observation called the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). It is an interactive discussion, and diagnosticians get to observe how the individual behaves in social situations. 
  2. The second part is Developmental History. Clinicians talk to a parent, a sibling, a spouse or a relative to gather information about the person’s history. They may also try to gather other records such as school report cards, videos, journals, and so on. 
  3. The third component is a series of questionnaires for the adult and someone who knows the adult well. The clinician would ask more questions about their history, their own experience, what they remember from their childhood, and what is happening to them now in the workplace or at school. 
  4. The fourth component is a thorough timeline of the individual’s vocational history. For adults, clinicians are looking to see their strengths and challenges in the workplace. 

Get your results 

You’ll receive your results as a digital or physical package from your assessor. Be warned that these assessments may use somewhat negative or outdated language in reference to autistic traits. Prepare yourself for an emotional experience before you review it. Whether you share your results or not is entirely up to you, but taking time to reflect on what they tell you about yourself and how you might want to move forward can be beneficial. 

Get support 

There are some ways to get support once you have a diagnosis, but it can be hard to find services paid for by the government. The rules about who can get help also change frequently. 

It’s important to keep moving forward, even if it’s hard. Make sure you have people who can help you, learn more about yourself and other autistic people, and look for ways to get support. Connecting with other autistic adults can be both therapeutic and validating. 

One place you can go for support is our Getting Together on the Spectrum group, which meets every second and fourth Wednesday of every month from 5:00 – 6:00 PM PST on Zoom. Autistic adults can sign up and join via computer or phone. If that’s not the space for you, check out other online and in-person activities or groups you could join.  

While it might feel easy to go inward after being diagnosed, try to pull your loved ones closer. Don’t be afraid to ask for love, validation, or an opportunity to vent if you need it. If socializing really isn’t your thing, try to find resources online that make you feel less alone. 

Remember that it’s not easy to get a free assessment for autism as an adult in BC, and it can take a long time and cost a lot of money. This makes it hard for many autistic people to get the help they need. But don’t give up! There might be other ways to get an assessment or other kinds of support, even if there are challenges to overcome.  

To learn more about assessments in BC, check out the resources below.

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