What is Autism?
Having autism (formally called Autism Spectrum Disorder) means that a person’s brain processes information, including information about their environment, in another way. The Autistic person’s brain has physically developed differently than a neurotypical brain. Autism can give a person both strengths and challenges. Autism is considered an example of neurodiversity.
Once you meet one person with autism you have met ONE person with autism. This means that each Autistic person is an individual, and their autism gives that person characteristics and qualities that are unique to them. A person’s autism shapes their experiences of life and the world.
There are two primary characteristics that require various levels of support needs:
- Social communication and social interaction, and
- Restrictive and repetitive behaviours activities or interests
Autism is lifelong, and exists on a spectrum over time. At different times a person with autism may require minimal supports, or more supports, in specific areas of their life.
For Autistic people, autism is a way of living that one develops over one’s lifespan.
Assessment and Diagnosis
Receiving a formal autism diagnosis can mean accessing additional support for the individual or your child. These are completed by qualified health care professionals who have undergone specific training. Here in Nova Scotia, these are completed by both Developmental Pediatricians or Psychologists. This page explains the diagnostic process for Nova Scotians who are looking to get a formal autism assessment.
Autism Assessments for Children
Option one: IWK
The only public access point for getting a childhood autism assessment in Nova Scotia is through the IWK or Nova Scotia Health, Mental Health & Addictions Department. The autism assessments are completed for children up to the age of 18 years old. To access this option, make an appointment with your family doctor or a physician/pediatrician that is familiar with your child, and based on their recommendations, they can make a referral to the IWK/Mental Health & Addictions for an autism assessment. Currently, the IWK has autism teams for both preschool and school-age with a waitlist and this option is publicly funded and is a free service through MSI. You may also self-refer through the non-urgent NS Health central intake line in your region Nova Scotia Mental Health and Addictions (nshealth.ca)
Option two: Private
The second option for accessing an autism diagnosis in childhood is through private practice psychological services that offer autism assessments. This option is paid for out of pocket or through your private insurance provider. Check with your insurance provider to see if psychological assessments are covered under your plan. If you would like a list of private practice psychological service providers that do childhood autism assessments in Nova Scotia, please contact your local coordinator.
Autism Assessments in Adulthood
At this time, there is no public access point for getting an adult autism diagnosis in Nova Scotia. The only way to receive an adult autism diagnosis in Nova Scotia is through private practice psychological services. This option is paid for out of pocket or through your private insurance provider. Check with your insurance provider to see if psychological assessments are covered under your plan. If you would like a list of private practice psychological service providers that do adult autism assessments in Nova Scotia, please contact your local Chapter Coordinator.
Note: Out of pocket expenses for an Autism Assessment can be claimed on your annual personal income tax as a medical expense.
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