Autism diagnosis for adults

Why you may want a formal diagnosis, how to approach your GP, and the benefits of being diagnosed.

Have you ever wondered if you're autistic? Finding out if you're autistic could help answer questions that may have bothered you all your adult life.

There are a number of online autism tests, but these vary in accuracy and none will be able to tell if you're definitely on the autism spectrum.

The only way to know for sure is to get a formal assessment from a team of healthcare professionals.

Benefits of a diagnosis

The benefits of getting a formal diagnosis of autism can include:

  • It may help you to understand why you may experience certain difficulties and what you can do about them.
  • When the people close to you understand why you may see and feel the world in a different way and find certain things difficult, it's much easier for them to empathise.
  • It may help you to get access to support and benefits.
  • Your employer may be required to make any necessary adjustments.

Find out more about people's experiences of getting a diagnosis from the National Autistic Society (NAS). 

How to get assessed

If you, a friend or a family member think you're autistic, see your GP to request an assessment.

Your GP needs a reason to refer you for diagnosis, so you need to explain why you think you could be autistic and how a diagnosis would benefit you.

Try to give your GP some examples of difficulties you've had in adulthood and childhood in areas such as: 

  • speech and communication 
  • expressing your feelings and thoughts 
  • understanding or relating to other people
  • using your imagination in social situations
  • difficulties in being flexible in your behaviour 

Not all GPs will have an in-depth knowledge of autism, so it's important to explain things as clearly as you can.

If your GP decides not to refer you for a diagnosis, find out why. You could get a second opinion from another GP at the surgery.

The Autism Act 2009 put a duty on the NHS to make sure there's somewhere to refer adults for an assessment.

What happens during an assessment?

During the assessment, healthcare professionals – who might include doctors, speech and language therapists, and occupational therapists – will want to find out more about you and any difficulties you have.

They may ask you about:

  • how you behave in social situations
  • your childhood
  • life at home, college or work

After the assessment

If you're diagnosed with autism, you may be offered further appointments to discuss your diagnosis and the next steps.

If you need additional help with daily living, you should be referred to your council for an assessment of your needs.

The decision about your care and support options will depend on your preferences and other factors, such as:

  • the effect autism has on your daily life
  • any physical or mental health problems
  • any problems that could lead to a crisis

Find out more

Find out more about getting assessed for autism as an adult from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

If you're formally diagnosed with autism, you may find NAS information about support and services useful.

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