If you live in Bristol, BaNES, South Gloucestershire or North Somerset and feel you may have autism or ADHD, the pathway to diagnosis is very similar.
See your GP
Make an appointment to see your GP. You may wish to make a double appointment to ensure you have time to share all the necessary information. Explain your concerns and why you want to seek assessment. For an autism assessment, ask the GP to refer you to the Bristol Autism Spectrum Service in Petherton Road, Whitchurch. For an ADHD assessment, ask the GP to refer you to the Bristol ADHD Clinic, also in Petherton Road, Whitchurch.
Please be aware that some GPs will resist this referral. The GP may say that you don’t seem to be that affected by the condition, or that they do not refer adults. Your GP may ask you to write a letter explaining why you feel you have the condition and what benefit you will get from assessment. Don’t be put off by this resistance. Push back and explain you are entitled to a referral an assessment. If you cannot talk your GP round, see another GP.
The waiting list for both ASD and ADHD assessments are quite long – 12-18 months. It’s worth ringing every few months to check where you are on the list.
For both ASD and ADHD assessments, you will be send some questionnaires – one for you and one for a close family member, preferably someone who has known you since childhood – to complete. You will be asked to either complete them and return them or bring them to the assessment appointment.
For an ASD assessment, generally you will have two appointments, each lasting around two hours. The first will be for a general discussion of your history and the difficulties you are experiencing, and the second will be to further discuss these things and explain the decision that the clinicians have made. For an ADHD assessment, you will generally have one appointment lasting 2-4 hours where you will discuss your situation and challenges and a decision will be made on the day. For both types of assessment you can (and should, if possible) bring someone with you who knows you well who can answer questions about you and your difficulties.
Once you have an ASD diagnosis, there is help available through weekly support sessions at the Create Centre, as well as other support. Once you have an ADHD diagnosis, the ADHD clinic will discuss medication options with you. They also run various support options, including a monthly evening support group meeting. Mind in Old Market also run an adult ADHD support group.
There are also some excellent private therapists who can help you. Louise Hilliar and Sonya Ayres are both highly recommended.
What to do if you don’t get a diagnosis
It can be devastating to go through the assessment process and not get a diagnosis. Adults do not seek diagnosis lightly, and to come away with nothing can lead to huge confusion and potential mental health issues. It is your right to a second opinion. The NHS offer advice about this here. You may wish to review the NICE guidelines for assessing adults for autism spectrum disorders and note any relevant discrepancies between these guidelines and your assessment. Additionally, you may feel it necessary to complain to the NHS about your experience.
You may also wish to seek private diagnosis. Louise Hilliar and Dr Simon Bird offer a private diagnosis service, as do Clinical Partners.