Posted on: 15 February 2024

On Thursday 8 February, CNWL held a launch event for its new Adult Autism Diagnostic Service in the Trust’s Headquarters.

The service is open to adults living in Brent, Harrow and Hillingdon who may benefit from understanding if their experiences are consistent with autism. Whilst the service is centred on the diagnostic assessment, the team also provide pre-diagnostic and post-diagnostic support in order the meet the needs of those referred to the service.

Jonathan Sharp, Clinical Psychologist, said “the service has been designed to provide a holistic and neuro-affirmative approach to autism. In doing so, it will focus on people’s differences and strengths in order to foster a positive sense of identity as well as providing support to help improve people’s quality of life”.

At the launch event, the team members were positioned at five checkpoints; each one representing the five stages of the journey a person takes when they are referred to the adult autism diagnostic service. Attendees could walk through and learn the details of each stage:

Stages One and Two – Referral

This referral stage focuses on increasing awareness of autism in the community and ensuring timely and appropriate referrals to the service. The team accepts referrals from GPs and CNWL mental health services via a new agreed referral form. The team are committed to providing a clear and transparent pathway into the service through a website that contains all relevant information. This will be designed and tested by those with lived experience so it’s easy for people to use.

Stage Three – Pre-assessment Support

Once the person has been accepted onto the waiting list for a diagnostic assessment, the team will collect more specific information to inform pre-assessment support provision.

The person is then invited to access support and resources to help manage different areas of their life. Team members work with community-based organisations like Centre for ADHD and Autism (CAAS), Hillingdon Autism Care and Support (HACS) and Advocacy Project throughout this process.

Natasha Vidal from the Advocacy Project confirmed that “services such as housing support, informative webinars and support groups help alleviate sources of stress”.

Stage Four – Diagnostic assessment

In line with a neuro-affirmative approach, the autism assessment is viewed as a therapeutic exploration of personal identity through a diagnostic process. The team have comprehensive training in all the recommended autism diagnostic tools and are able to offer an individualised assessment process based on the needs and preferences of the person.

All the assessments are concluded with a detailed feedback meeting that helps guide the person through the next steps of their journey.

Stage Five – Post-diagnostic support

Following the diagnostic outcome, the person is invited to access CNWL post-diagnostic support sessions and link in with collaborative services such as CAAS, HACS and Advocacy Project. Alongside autism specific support, the person is also directed towards any mental health, physical health or social care support they might need.

Stephanie Soza, Assistant Psychologist, explained that: “we aim to provide service users with resources that foster a positive self-identity, especially where a diagnosis might be perceived in a negative light”.

The launch represents an exciting step forward. Over the coming months, the service will be evaluated and developments will be made in response to on-going feedback from the team’s lived experience consultant, services users, community services and staff.