1. Make an appointment with a health professional
If you think your child has autism, 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.
It’s a good idea to write down your concerns, including examples of what you’ve noticed and any concerns that your child’s early childhood education service or school has raised. You can share this information with the health professional.
If the professional doesn’t have any concerns about your child, but you’re still worried, it’s OK to ask for a second, or even third, opinion from another professional.
You can monitor your child’s social communication behaviour and interaction using the ASDetect app. It gives clear examples of what to expect in the early stages of your child’s social and language development.
2. Learn about autism services, therapies and supports
Early intervention is the best way to support autistic children’s learning, development and wellbeing. It can also help children develop the skills they need to take part in everyday activities. Sometimes children who get early intervention need less or no support as they get older.
You can get some therapies and supports before your child has a formal autism diagnosis. Here’s how:
- Contact the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) on 1800 800 110. If your child is aged under seven years, your child can get support through the NDIS's early childhood early intervention approach without a diagnosis.
- Look into programs and therapies that your child can start without an assessment and diagnosis – for example, PlayConnect playgroups or Early Days workshops.
- Get your child started on therapies like speech pathology or occupational therapy while you’re waiting for an assessment and diagnosis. Your GP will be able to tell you about Medicare rebates for these services.
- Put your child’s name on waiting lists for some therapies and supports while you wait for your child’s formal assessment.
If your child is over seven years old, there’s a different pathway to get support under the NDIS. Your child will need a formal diagnosis before starting on this pathway.
3. Get an autism diagnosis
Arrange an autism assessment for your child as early as you can. A thorough assessment is important for an accurate autism diagnosis. It helps to think of the assessment as a benchmark or starting point for support for your child. You can use the assessment to measure your child’s progress.
For a thorough assessment and a specific autism diagnosis, make an appointment with a professional trained in diagnosing autism, like a psychologist, speech pathologist or paediatrician. You might need a referral from your child’s nurse or GP.
Autism diagnosis is based on observing your child, talking to you and others about your child, and looking at your child’s developmental history. It usually involves many health professionals.
4. Build your support network
A supportive network of family and friends can help you make sense of information and support you in practical ways.
- Talk to friends and family you trust about your concerns about your child.
- Meet and talk to other parents of autistic children by joining forums or parent groups. Your state autism association or the NDIA can help you find local groups.
- If you need a break, ask family or friends to look after your child occasionally or for other kinds of practical help, like cooking an occasional meal. You might find it hard to ask for or accept help, but people who care about you and your child will want to support you.
When you look after yourself, you’re better able to navigate the challenges of family life with an autistic child. And when you’re healthy and well, it helps your child grow and thrive.
5. Read, talk, ask questions
Finding out more about autism and therapies and supports for autistic children can help you choose the supports that will best help your child.
- Read information about autism on this website.
- Read about the main types of therapies and supports for autistic children and find out more about the individual therapies in our therapies guide.