Many families have questions about autism and about how we do assessments. This page answers some of the questions we hear most often from families. We will be available to help answer any other questions you may have.
What is an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
Autism affects how a person socializes with others. It also affects how a person acts, communicates and thinks about things. Because there is a wide variation in how autism takes form, these different forms of autism are sometimes generally referred to as "Autism Spectrum Disorders".
Right now, nobody knows exactly what causes ASD. What we do know is that the way the brain develops and a person's genes are likely involved.
People who have ASD do not all act the same. The one thing that every person with ASD has in common is that they have difficulty understanding how to socialize with others.
We are usually able to see some of the effects of ASD on a child by the age of three. Children do not outgrow ASD. They generally have a life-long developmental disability.
What is the British Columbia Autism Assessment Network (BCAAN)?
BCAAN is the name of the program operated by the Provincial Health Services Authority and other regional Health Authorities across BC. BCAAN is a network of clinicians who assess and diagnose children and youth who may have ASD. A clinician is a person with special skills and training, like a psychologist, psychiatrist or pediatrician (children's doctor). All the clinicians that are part of BCAAN use the same guidelines and standards to decide whether a child or youth has ASD.
How can I get my child assessed for autism?
The first step is to make an appointment with your family doctor. Once you do that, your doctor will either refer you to a specialist, or may refer you to a professional who is an expert in diagnosing ASD. Your doctor will think about the best place for the assessment to be done, depending on where you live.
If your child is referred to a specialist, it is helpful to include any past reports along with the referral letter. The specialist might want to see reports like:
- Physician consults
- Hearing assessments
Reports from your child's infant development program or child development centre
Psychological or psycho-educational reports
Speech and language reports
Ask your doctor if you do not know if your child has these reports done.
Do I have to have my child assessed by a BCAAN clinician?
Clinicians who are not part of BCAAN can also assess and diagnose children but they have to use the same guidelines as BCAAN clinicians in order for you to receive funding from MCFD. If you want your child assessed by a clinician who is not part of BCAAN, talk to your doctor.
You may want to contact the Autism Society of BC (604-434-0880) for a list of names of professionals who can privately assess your child.
Do I have to go to Sunny Hill for an assessment if I want MCFD funding?
No - you can go someplace other than Sunny Hill, but the person who assesses your child must follow the same rules that BCAAN follows. Those rules are set by the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD). The rules are different for children under age six than they are for children over age six.
The MCFD has different funding, depending on the age of your child.
Early Intensive Intervention (EII) funding is for children under six years of age. Extended Autism Intervention (EAI) funds are for children six and over. EII and EAI have different funding requirements. Details are available at http://www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/. or contact your local MCFD office. The number is in the Blue Pages of your phone book.
Do all BCAAN clinicians follow the same standards?
Yes. All the clinicians in BCAAN must follow the same standards. These standards have been tested and have been shown to work in studies.
The standards are called "Standards and Guidelines for the Assessment and Diagnosis of Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in British Columbia, 2003."
How long will I wait for an assessment?
Unfortunately, there is a wait list for BCAAN assessments. We will do everything we can to see your child as soon as possible.
What can I do while I am waiting?
We know that waiting is difficult. If you run into difficulties while you are waiting, contact your doctor for help. The BC Autism Society also has a support network.
BCAAN may mail you some questionnaires and forms before your assessment. Some of the forms are for your child's preschool or school to fill in, with your permission. You should try to fill out these questionnaires and send them to us before your child's first appointment so that we are better prepared.
Can I get help for my child during the waiting period?
It is important to use the early intervention services in your community while you are waiting. You can access these services through your local community health office. You do not need a doctor's referral to use these services. Services include:
Infant Development Program (IDP)
Child Development Centres
Speech and Language Therapy
Supported Child Care (SCC)
Where do I get more information about these services?
Visit the MCFD website:
Who do I call during the waiting period?
If you have any concerns about your child, please call your family doctor or specialist.
If you would like information about your child's referral and wait list status, contact the health authority where you live.
Can I get service in a language other than English?
Yes. Although English is most often spoken in the clinics, we can get an interpreter to come to your appointments. You should let us know if you need an interpreter when we give you an appointment.
Are all the appointments on the same day?
It depends on your child's needs and where you live.
Who should come to the appointments?
You know your child best. At least one parent or guardian needs to be at the assessments to provide information and to support your child. You can bring along another family member or caregiver for support if you wish.
When and how am I told about the results of my child's assessment?
In most cases, we will talk with you about the results of your child's assessments after they are all finished. Once the assessments are done, your child's team will meet to talk about what they found out, and decide on a diagnosis and the best way to provide treatment. After they meet, they will contact you to set up a time to talk about the results.
Can my community team be involved?
Yes, if you wish. It can be useful for the clinicians to talk to the people in your community who will be providing ongoing treatment and care to your child. These meetings, called community conferences, are arranged after the family conference. You decide who attends this meeting.
When do I get a written report?
You will get a written summary about your child's diagnosis at the family conference. The final reports may take up to 4-6 weeks to finish.
What happens if my child is not diagnosed with autism?
BCAAN provides assessments and recommendations for all children and youth we see, regardless of the final diagnosis. If a child is not diagnosed with autism, he or she may still need help. We will make specific recommendations, and will help you to get the services your child needs, including developmental, mental health, education, and social supports, among others.
How do I make a complaint if I am unhappy with the service or with a specific person?
Your suggestions, comments and complaints help us to improve our services. We all benefit from listening to one another. Whether it is to answer a question, solve a problem or to share a success story, it is important that we hear from you.
Just as much as we want to hear about good experiences that you have had with our services, we also want you to tell us when you have a problem so we can resolve it. Please get in touch with us in person, by telephone, mail, fax or email.
If you require more help you can contact the provincial manager of BCAAN.
BCAAN PROGRAM MANAGER
4500 Oak St
Vancouver, BC V6H 3N1
Fax: 604 453-8390