In the province of British Columbia, children and youth up to 18 years of age who are suspected of having autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be referred by their pediatrician to their local Health Authority for a publicly funded assessment.
For children and youth residing in either the Vancouver Coastal or Fraser Health Regions, all referrals are received and processed by Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children in Vancouver, on behalf of Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) through the BC Autism Assessment Netword (BCAAN). Depending on a number of factors such as the age of the child and the city of the family's residence, PHSA contracts with several diagnostic teams throughout the Lower Mainland - including the Asante Centre - to perform the assessment.
While referrals are received and processed by Sunny Hill, children may attend the Asante Centre for their assessment for possible ASD. An assessment for ASD may include components such as: psychology, speech-language, interviews with the family, and a medical assessment. A family conference where the results are shared and recommendations are generated is an essential component of the assessment process.
For adult suspected of living with autism spectrum disorder, publically-funded assessments are typically completed through psychiatrists. A referral to psychiatry can be made through the person's family doctor.
The Asante Centre also completes private assessments for children and youth suspected of having autism spectrum disorder. For more information, please see our Private Assessments page or contact the Asante Centre.
Q: What is your waitlist like for an Autism assessment?
A: We currently have a waitlist, but this fluctuates so you should contact the Centre for a current timeframe. In order to be put on the waitlist, we need to complete an intake phone call and receive our intake paperwork back – this includes intake forms along with authorization to collect information forms.
Q: What is the cost of an Autism assessment?
A: At the time of your call to the Centre, we can provide a ball park range. As we gather more information, our clinical team will determine what components may or may not be needed (e.g. speech-language), which helps determine the cost.
Q: What does an Autism assessment look like?
A: ASD Assessments depend on a multitude of factors including the individual’s age and language skills. The two most common scenarios are:
- Child under 6 years old: Developmental Psychology Assessment to determine if there are potential underlying cognitive concerns (such as a global developmental delay) that may be accounting for the behaviours the parent/caregiver is seeing. Also an ADOS , which is a planned play activity. This is a standardized, scored measure. The qualified specialist is seeking and rating specific behaviours, actions, reactions, etc. Finally and ADI-R which is an interview with the parent(s)/caregiver(s). This is a structured, standardized interview format. Answers are scored after, to determine if an ASD Diagnosis is appropriate.
- Child over 6 years old: ADOS and ADI-R only (see above for description).
There are cases where additional specialists are needed. Often this is a Speech-Language Pathologist (for a full speech assessment, or perhaps an observation of the ADOS) or an Occupational Therapist for an assessment.
Q: What is the difference between an assessment at the Asante Centre and one at Sunny Hill/PARC?
A: All diagnoses that come from assessments conducted at the Asante Centre are valid diagnoses. Even though you are pursuing the assessment privately (instead of through PARC/Sunny Hill) the assessment is still carried out by a Qualified Specialist and if a diagnosis is made, the child is eligible for the same services as any child who goes through Sunny Hill/PARC (i.e. Autism at home funding).
Q: Where can I find Autism resources?
A: AIS-BC is always a good place to start. They are very knowledgeable. Your local child development center may also have options or know of resources. If the issues you are experiencing are behaviour based, a behaviour interventionist may be of use, or if the issues are communication based, perhaps an SLP. You can check with your local CDC for SLP’s (or pursue them privately in your community if that is a better fit). These both cost money. There are parent support groups in most communities. It is important to note that without a diagnosis, unfortunately there are very few direct services to receive. A good resource for finding an autism service provider (if you have a diagnosis) is the RASP (registered autism service provider) list. This can be found on the AIS-BC website.
Q: I’m so scared, what kind of quality of life is he/she going to have? Can he/she be successful?
A: Autism is a spectrum disorder, and that is a part of what makes it so tricky. Some people who have Autism have few impairments and do extremely well with limited supports in place, other people have more challenges and need a lot more support. It’s nearly impossible to answer that question, unfortunately. However, every person is set up for success when they have a person who loves them and cares about them. If you’re seeking more information, you obviously love and care about your child. In our opinion that’s the best place to start.
Q: I have other children, and I want to help them understand what is going on and process all of this, are there any resources out there for siblings?
A: Yes, there are a growing number of resources out there for siblings of people who have developmental and intellectual disabilities. Being a sibling of someone with challenges is a very different world, different even from parenting, and it’s important to acknowledge their experience. One of the best resources for siblings we have come across is The Sibling Support Project. It is a group run by Don Meyer who is based in Seattle. They’ve been active in this sector for a long time, and this group comes very highly recommended by a staff member at the centre, who herself is a sibling of someone with ASD. The Sibling Support Project has workshops/trainings/resources for children, youth, and adults as well. Their website is: http://www.siblingsupport.org/ There are a few organizations in the lower mainland who offer sibshops (workshops for siblings). The sibling support website offers a listing of organizations (including ones in BC) who offer this. However, as these programs are run by non-profit organizations, be sure to call the individual organization who hosts the sibshops to be sure they are currently running the program(s).
Q: My child has meltdowns in public, can’t wear shoes or socks, can’t handle loud noises, other sensory issues. Is there anything I can do?
A: Sensory issues are common in many developmental disabilities. Sometimes, our bodies and brains interpret sensory information (touch, taste, sound, sight, etc) differently than those around us. To your son/daughter the lights may be way to bright, or socks/shoes may be too rough/constricting/etc. We’ve heard of some success with using headphones – particularly noise-cancelling ones (with or without soft music playing) to help with too much outside noise and help people focus or remain calm in situations that they may have difficulties with. Sensory input and processing difficulties are very personal and differ from person to person so often it’s a trial and error approach.
As far as meltdowns in public are concerned, aside from knowing the signs that your child is in “impending meltdown” mode, there isn’t much you can do sometimes. We’ve been there. We've experienced meltdowns in stores, parks, parking lots, restaurants, libraries, etc. It’s a very very difficult situation, and can leave you feeling shameful, exhausted, sad, worried, angry, a whole host of emotions. Know that you are not alone!
Q: My child was diagnosed in another province, how do I get ASD funding here in BC?
A: In order to qualify for the Autism at-home funding from the BC government, a form needs to be completed by a Qualified Specialist in BC. The QS will need a copy of the diagnostic report from your child’s assessment out of province, and they will review it, determine if the standards for a diagnosis in BC have been met and fill out the form accordingly.