Today I went for an Autism Assessment with the Sheffield Adult Autism and Neurodevelopmental Services.
I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect when I got to the hospital because the letter I got wasn’t very informative. So I’ve decided to write this blog to help other people!
When I first walked into the main hospital building a receptionist told me that the autism unit was tiny and not connected to the actual hospital. So certainly go and ask for directions in the main building. The lady behind the main desk was very helpful and walked me straight to the door when I explained I didn’t like getting lost or the idea of getting lost – which I thought was very nice of her. She also told me not to be worried because I must have looked very nervous.
After signing in on a sheet I went to sit down in the waiting room until it was time for my appointment (I was actually half an hour early)! The waiting room was very big. It looked like a normal waiting room with bean bags and a refreshment table; which included tea and coffee and a big box of sensory toys.
Inside the box were everything from weighted lap pads and ear defenders to tangles and Koosh balls. You can use them in the waiting room and even take into your appointment if you would like. As long as you wiped them down with one of the wipes provided and placed it back in the box after use.
There was also a list of instructions explaining what each item was and how to use it. I found this helpful because of some of the things I’d never seen before. I took in a weighted lap pad and my own tangle into the appointment, as well as my Chewingem to keep me calm. They worked and the weighted lap pad was great so I’ll certainly be ordering one after Christmas!
After a little while my name was called by the lady I was seeing and she told me that I could bring in the lap pad and my stim toys and not to be nervous. Before leading me into a small room with three chairs in it.
There wasn’t much decoration on the walls – which she explained was because they didn’t want to overstimulate people and upset them whilst they were being seen. Which I thought was very thoughtful and I wouldn’t have thought of that myself.
She then explained that the assessment would take 2-3 hours and that it’s been split up into 4 parts. 1. Social communication (conversation skills, non-verbal communication skills etc. 2. Social interaction (making friends, engagement with other people etc). 3. Sensory processing (the 5 senses, awareness of space and your own body etc). 4. Flexible thinking (coping with change, interests etc).
PART 1 – SOCIAL COMMUNICATION
As I brought a questionnaire that was sent to me in the post for a member of my family to fill in. She said it was fine that I was on my own. So you will need to fill that in if you don’t want anyone to go with you!
The first part of the assessment (social communication) was mainly talking about whether I understood what people are thinking without them telling me. (I don’t very well) And how I am with talking on the phone. (which I am also not very good at).
I then realised there was no reason to be nervous because it was very relaxed and as long as I took my time the questions were very easy to answer and there was no pressure put on me!
PART 2 – SOCIAL INTERACTION
The second part mainly concentrated on how I interacted with others when I was a very little child. Mainly how many friends I had, and have managed to keep since then.
I was also asked about my boyfriend and how I communicate with him. I told her that he’s amazing and knows exactly how to talk to me so I understand, as do my close friends I’ve had for quite a while.
They have developed a way to speak to me so I understand when jokes and sarcasm are being used. I was always an isolated child, so a lot of the questions revolve around that and my early school life.
We also spoke about how my stutter may be caused by autism! Which is a massive weight off my shoulders because I have always struggled with it.
This section took a little more time because I’m not very good at wording how I am at interacting with others. However, this wasn’t an issue and I didn’t feel rushed whatsoever.
PART 3 – SENSORY PROCESSING
Sensory processing was talking about how hypersensitive my senses are. We spoke about what sounds agitate me, and situations I have to take myself away from because they’re too noisy and make me upset.
We then did this for all 5 of the senses – it made me realise how sensitive my senses really are! I’ve never really thought about it in depth before!
We also spoke about stimming and I told her about my Chewigem and my tangle (which I was playing with). I explained how much stimming helps me focus and how I do it most of the time.
She said that it’s good that I’m confident enough to stim in public. This made me feel quite proud of myself and it was very nice of her to say!
PART 4 – FLEXIBLE THINKING
The final part of the session was flexible thinking. This was my favourite part because I got to info-dump about my special interests!
We talked about what my special interests were when I was younger, (I spoke a lot about Pokemon cards and Doctor Who). And how I would react if I was interrupted whilst doing something which involved these things. Compared to my special interests now and how I would react now.
I told her about how I’ve learnt to control my temper when someone interrupts me or gets a fact wrong because I’m an adult and it’s not suitable to get very angry over something so small. Which she said was good.
We then did the same thing but with change – I explained how changing schools and leaving school scared me. Also how I have to have everything planned at least a day in advance. Along with how I have to be told in advance when changes are being made in the house.
This was the quickest section because there isn’t much to say about how I deal with change because I just don’t deal with it very well!
We then took a half an hour break whilst I ate my lunch. She went to read over her notes and make a final decision about my diagnosis.
After half an hour had passed we went back into the room. She read through my diagnosis and why she came to the conclusion that I am autistic with every assessment step.
The diagnosis I have had in the past (which turned out to be incorrect for over 18-year-olds) didn’t involve this. So now I feel like I have a clearer understanding of what makes me autistic.
We then spoke about how this made me feel before she gave me a small information pack and walked me to the door to leave.
I felt very welcomed and I actually can’t wait to go back in a few months for a follow-up session to see how I’m dealing with my diagnosis and to give me any more help with applying benefits I need!
A full report will be sent out in a few weeks to myself and my doctor about why I’m Autistic in detail, so I’ll probably have a much better understanding of why I am how I am after I’ve read that properly, and that will really help my family too, who are struggling to understand my late diagnosis and how to help me as much as they can.
I hope this has put some people’s minds at rest about assessments as an adult!
Don’t be nervous, the staff are really really helpful and they are there to support you and get you the help that you need!
Remember, this is only my experience – your’s will probably be slightly different because everyone’s is!
Just be yourself and don’t be scared!
It’s a very laid back environment and I really liked it!
I feel a lot better now I have an actual official diagnosis and can start getting the help and support I need.
It’s never too late to be diagnosed!
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