How autism is diagnosed

How the diagnostic assessment works

A paediatrician, psychiatrist or registered psychologist completes an assessment by examining your child's:

  • Medical and developmental history
  • Behaviours, social interactions and communication strategies

During the assessment, the specialist will interact with your child and observe how they complete a structured play-based assessment and cognitive, or thinking skill tests. The specialist will also ask you questions about your child’s behaviour and development.

After the assessment, you will meet with the specialist and receive a written report. The entire process takes more than one appointment to complete. At least one parent or guardian needs to be at the assessment. You can bring along another family member or friend for support.

Scheduling a diagnostic assessment

British Columbia Autism Assessment Network (BCAAN) provides free diagnostic assessments for children up to age 19. Lookup public assessment wait times.

  • Get a referral from your doctor
  • BCAAN will coordinate an assessment as close to where you live as possible
  • After the assessment, BCAAN will send you a Clinical Outcomes Form with test results

A qualified B.C. specialist in private practice can also provide assessment and diagnosis as long as it follows B.C. standards and guidelines for assessments (PDF). Parents need to pay for these assessments. This option might take less time.

Assessments completed outside of B.C. must be confirmed by a qualified B.C. specialist before you can apply for autism funding

If the assessment does not meet B.C. standards, you may need to have a new diagnostic assessment done in B.C. before applying for autism funding.

Waiting for a diagnostic assessment

It’s common for families to have to wait for a diagnostic assessment.

If your child receives an autism diagnosis

After receiving your child's autism diagnosis, an assessment may indicate that your child needs support with skill development. You can:

  • Build a support team that's tailored to your child's needs – it might include health professionals, therapists, care providers, educators and support workers
  • Apply for autism funding to help cover the cost of support that will help them reach their development goals