Spring 2023 issue
Est. Reading: 3 minutes

New Autism Diagnostic Service for Newham

A dedicated Autism Diagnostic Service has opened in Newham to assess people over the age of 18 for Autism. In recent years, there has been growing interest in Autism and surge in referrals leading to long waiting lists. Trusttalk met with Robin Betts, the Clinical Manager for the service, to find out more.

What is Autism? 

Autism is a lifelong developmental condition that affects how people perceive, communicate and interact with others. For legal purposes, it is classed as a disability. Autism may co-occur with mental health conditions or learning disabilities. While autism is not a learning disability, around 4 in 10 Autistic people have a learning disability. 

With an estimated 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK – approximately 1% of the population – most people probably know someone who is Autistic.

What are the benefits of being diagnosed as an adult? 

For this group, getting a timely and thorough assessment and diagnosis may be helpful because: 

  • it may help them (and their family, partner, employer, colleagues and friends) to understand why they may experience the world differently, and how to promote better understanding and autism-specific adjustments where necessary  
  • it may correct a previous misdiagnosis (such as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder), and mean that any mental health problems can be better addressed 
  • it may help them to get access to appropriate services and benefits 
  • they will be entitled to have reasonable adjustments made by their employer, college oruniversity, if they choose to disclose 
  • it may help women, and/or those who do not present with typical autism behaviours who may not before have been recognised as autistic by others 
  • They can join the autism community, or wider neurodiversity community for support.

Do we know why autism happens?  

Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition caused by differences in brain. Research suggests that it has multiple genes rather than a single gene. Also, it appears to occur within families but it is not always the case. Lastly, certain environmental influences may increase the possibility of someone becoming autistic. However, it is not caused by emotional deprivation or the way a child is brought up. 

Can people have autism their whole life and never know? 

The simple answer is yes. Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition, which means that people are born with it. For different reasons, people may not be diagnosed when children, especially when their differences are internalised and not displayed. In the last years there has been an increasing awareness of neurodiversity, which may support people to detect their differences, wonder if autism could be underpinning the way they feel, and seek a diagnosis.  

Why are more males found to have autism? 

More men and boys are currently diagnosed as autistic than women and girls. This is changing slowly but surely, as more women and girls are being diagnosed as autistic. Women and girls are often better at masking or camouflaging their difficulties. Autism traits in girls are under-reported by teachers. 

Why is there the sudden interest and increase in being assessed for autism?  

Advances in diagnostic capabilities and greater understanding and awareness of autism spectrum conditions seem to be largely driving the increase.   

Why are waiting times so long right now?  

The increase in awareness and understanding around autism and neurodiversity has been a key point in the increasing number of referrals, which leads to waiting times. 

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