person sitting while using laptop computer and green stethoscope near

Getting a diagnosis in Western Australia (13-18 years)

For teens aged between 13-17 years, autism diagnostic assessments are typically conducted by:

• Paediatrician and Psychologist, or
• Psychiatrist and Psychologist

Sometimes the diagnostic assessment can be performed by either a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist alone, depending on the evidence of autism in early childhood and the type of diagnostic report they produce. Please note, not all qualified professionals carry out autism diagnostic assessments.

The process for diagnosing autism varies between different Australian states and territories. If a person was diagnosed outside WA, they may need to be reassessed to meet the criteria for support in the WA Education system. Children aged 7 and over generally need a formal diagnosis to be eligible to receive NDIS supports and support in schools.

Here’s how it works

If you are worried about your teenager’s development, here are the different options and steps involved in getting a diagnosis for a child aged 13 years and over.

The autism diagnostic process for teenagers in WA starts with an appointment with your GP to discuss your concerns and ask for a referral to the appropriate professional. Your child needs to go to the GP appointment with you. Your GP may recommend a particular paediatrician or psychiatrist, but you can ask to be referred to the specialists of your choice. If you don’t hear from the specialists within two weeks of them being sent the referral, it’s a good idea to contact them directly.

The paediatrician or psychiatrist will carry out a diagnostic assessment of your child. If they believe your child needs further assessment for autism, they will refer your son or daughter to a psychologist for a formal autism diagnostic assessment. These assessments can be done either through the public or private systems. Alternatively, you can choose to go to a psychologist first, but would not be eligible for Medicare rebate if going through the private system.

• Public: Public diagnostic assessments are free, but for youth aged 13yrs to 17yrs, the waiting period is up to 2 years. Public autism diagnostic assessments are carried out by the Department of Communities – Disability Services OR the State Child Development Centre (Perth families only).

• Private: The waiting period for a private autism diagnostic assessment is usually around 1 to 4 months, and you will need to pay a fee for the assessments. You may be able to claim some small rebates from Medicare or private health insurance. Please contact the relevant specialists before the appointments to find out about their fees and any rebates.

Autism is diagnosed using the DSM-V-TR, and people are diagnosed based on having difficulties in two areas:

a) Social communication

b) Restricted, repetitive behaviour or interests

The diagnostic report should also include a level of severity for both areas.

The levels are:

• Level 1 – The individual needs support.
• Level 2 – The individual needs substantial support.
• Level 3 – The individual needs very substantial support.

Currently, a diagnosis of autism level 2 or 3 is automatically eligible for NDIS. A diagnosis of autism level 1 may also be eligible for NDIS, but you would need to submit supporting evidence of the impact a person’s autism has on their ability to function.

Handy Hint – Collecting evidence and information

You will probably be asked similar questions by GPs, paediatricians and other specialists, therapists and other services about your teen. You will also receive lots of forms, reports and paperwork. The best way to keep track of it all is to: