How to get tested for autism: tips for diagnosing autism in adults

Q: “Where can I get tested for a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in adulthood?” What type of professional or specialist makes an adult autism diagnosis and what does the process generally look like? Which degrees and qualifications matter most?

Finding a qualified provider to assess, diagnose and treat adult autism is difficult, as many people on the spectrum know all too well.

That said, the first step towards finding an adult autism diagnosis is finding an expert – a psychologist or psychiatrist – who specializes in diagnosing ASD. Consider focusing on finding adult psychologists first because, unlike adult psychiatrists, they receive more clinical training and are exposed to conditions that start in early childhood. (To qualify for a diagnosis of ASD, the patient must have experienced symptoms during their development.)

You may be able to find a specialist near you by continuing:

[Take This Self-Test for Autism Spectrum Disorder in Adults]

While there is no “certificate” that qualifies experts to diagnose autism in adults, the expert you choose should definitely have some training in how to diagnose ASD. They don’t need to have research-level reliability for ASD diagnostic tests, but they do need clinical training with other autism experts.

It is also important for the clinician to use reliable diagnostic tools that research supports as being effective in making a diagnosis of autism. In addition to essential elements such as clinical interview, an assessment of autism in adults is best performed using these tools:

  • A detailed developmental history, which helps track how symptoms progress during development and whether external factors influenced them. Psychologists are experts at unraveling and examining these stories. There may be other people in your life, such as a parent, spouse, or sibling, who can help with the process by describing your symptoms over time.
  • The Social Communication Questionnaire, Autism Spectrum Quotient, Adaptive Behavior Questionnaire, Revised Autism Diagnostic Interview (ADI-R), and Autism Diagnosis Observation Program-2 (ADOS) are commonly used. These last two are the most comprehensive measurements available. The ADI-R is a clinical interview with a caregiver or other family member who has known you very well from early childhood. ADOS includes a clinical interview and observation of your social communication skills and the presence of repetitive behaviors involved in ASD.
  • Psychiatric assessments for other conditions are commonly used to rule out, confirm or even uncover other conditions that exist alongside ASD.

How to get tested for autism: next steps

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Updated July 14, 2021

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