Canberra Psychology Help with Autism

Autism Assessment Team

Jo Richardson is a Clinical Psychologist with over 10 years of experience in assessing and diagnosing Autism and childhood developmental disorders. Jo is on the Australian Psychological Society’s Identified Practitioner list. This indicates that she has provided documented evidence that she has training and experience in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Dr Andrea Murray completed her Master of Clinical Neuropsychology/PhD at the University of Melbourne and is qualified in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Andrea has previously worked at the Royal Children’s Hospital and the Austin Hospital in Melbourne.

Dr Sarah Gill completed her PhD in Clinical Psychology in 2009 at the Australian National University. Sarah is formally trained and experienced in undertaking Spectrum Disorder assessments.

Lisa Shirt is a clinically trained Psychologist with significant experience in working with adolescents. Lisa is also formally trained and experienced undertaking Spectrum Disorder assessments.

Our Assessment team provide assessments for children, adolescents and adults.

What is an Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autistic Disorder is known by several different names: Autism, High Functioning Autism, Asperger’s Disorder and Spectrum Disorders.

The key features of Autistic Disorder are:

Deficits in social-emotional behaviour, ranging from abnormal or inappropriate social approach and failure of normal back-and-forth conversation; to reduced sharing of interests, emotions, or affect; to failure to initiate or respond to social interactions appropriately.

Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviours used for social interaction, ranging from poorly integrated verbal and nonverbal communication; to abnormalities in eye contact and body language or deficits in understanding and using gestures; to a total lack of facial expressions and nonverbal communication.

Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships, ranging from difficulties adjusting behavior to suit various social contexts; to difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends; to absence of interest in peers.

Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities, such as lining up toys, repetitive body movements of jumping, flapping or spinning, or repetitive speech.

Inflexible adherence to routines, or patterns or verbal nonverbal behaviour such as rigid thinking patterns, greeting rituals, need to take same route or eat food every day, and distressed if routines are changed without warning or preparation. Furthermore, a pattern of restricted interests or obsessive interest in certain topics or toys or things that tend to dominate their play or conversations.

Sensory sensitivity to the environment around them. This can present as being sensitive to touch by others, not liking hugs or wanting extremely firm hugs; being distressed by having their nails and hair cut, their hair washed or brushed; being a very fussy eater, or only eating certain types of foods by texture or colour, and not wanting foods to touch each other on their plate; having sensitive hearing, covering their ears or becoming distressed when you’re using electrical equipment such as the blender or vacuum.

Each person with Autistic Disorder experiences these challenges in different ways and to different severities. Some children may be more challenged by social difficulties while others are more challenged by behaviour and sensory difficulties. Autistic Disorder is therefore diagnosed through the use of a range of assessments and information gathering. This is completed in a comprehensive process that includes psychometric testing. Please see our description of Autism Assessments for further information.

“Each person with Autistic Disorder experiences these challenges in different ways and to different severities. Some children may be more challenged by social difficulties while others are more challenged by behaviour and sensory difficulties.”

Child and Adolescent Autism Assessments: What to expect

Assessments can take several sessions of testing, interviewing and observing of your child, and information may be gathered from various sources, such as school teachers, speech therapists, occupational therapists etc.

When the testing is complete a comprehensive report is written and provided to parents. Reports can also be directly provided to your doctors and paediatricians or school if you wish. When certain diagnoses are made, these reports can be used within applications to the Dept of Education or Govt agencies for support funding for your child. Within the report, all recommendations and treatment plan are provided, including contacts for recommended therapists, agencies and any other supports required.

If you would like an assessment to include a school visit, this can be requested and an observation session will be planned. Furthermore, teachers are always welcome to contact our team to provide feedback or report any concerns during the assessment process.

This process described is flexible as it depends on the child’s age as to how long they need to attend for testing.