Standards for autism assessments are established by the BC Ministry of health, which indicates the assessment protocols, standardized instruments and criteria for diagnosing autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Clients can either access assessment services through the government’s BC Autism Assessment Network or privately. There is no cost for assessments done through BCAAN although the wait lists can be very lengthy. This is the main reason a private registered psychologist may be sought out to conduct the autism assessment. The psychologist must follow the Provincial guidelines, complete a diagnostic report, and certify the non-BCAAN (private) diagnostic form. The private psychologist’s certification of the non-BCAAN form allows the family to obtain provincial funding and therapeutic supports necessary to help them to support their child with an ASD.
What is the cost of a private autism assessment?
The cost of the autism assessment varies by age group. The Provincial guidelines establish more comprehensive assessment for children 6 years of age or younger than for children over the age of six. The cost for autism assessment for a child 6 or younger is $2,800, while for a child over 6, it is $2,400.
Why the cost differential between older and younger children?
For younger children, more extensive psychological testing is required (for example, IQ testing is not required for children over 6). There is also significantly more multidisciplinary collaboration with other practitioners (e.g. pediatrician and speech and language pathologist), and in his or her report, the psychologist must review and coordinate the findings of the other disciplines. These factors account for the higher cost of autism assessment for children under 6.
What does the assessment entail?
For children under 6:
For a child under 6, there are more multidisciplinary components to the assessment due to the greater complexity of identifying autism in very young children. Provincial guidelines require that very young children undergo a medical assessment, a psychological assessment, as well as assessments by other relevant health professionals, e.g. speech and language pathologists. The different clinicians need to consult and the resulting diagnostic report is a multidisciplinary report integrating the findings of allied disciplines. The psychological assessment, which entails IQ, adaptive functioning, and autism assessment, is the heart of the report.
For children over 6:
Assessment for children over 6 is more straightforward because autism is much more readily apparent, since older children would have “aged out” of other behaviours that may confound autism diagnosis, and the presentation of autism features is more stable by older ages. Therefore, only an autism diagnostic assessment, which is conducted by the psychologist, is required for diagnosing ASD and for the certification of the autism diagnostic form.
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