Autism Service – Frequently Asked Questions


Autism Service - Frequently Asked Questions

The world of autism and autism screenings can be very confusing, so we're answering a lot of the questions we often hear people ask.

What is autism?

Autism is a lifelong, developmental condition that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them. Autism is a spectrum, this means that every person on the autism spectrum has some degree of difficulty with social interaction, communication, and flexible behaviour. But the level of difficulty and the combination of symptoms varies tremendously from person to person.

Like all autistic people, people who have autism without a learning disability have a hard time with social interaction and communication. They don’t naturally read social cues and might find it difficult to make friends. They can get so stressed by a social situation that they shut down. They might not make much eye contact or small talk.

Autistic people who don't also have a learning disability might have specific routines and need order. They might have repetitive and restrictive habits or highly specialist interests that seem odd to others.

Some autistic people can hold a job, and others find that really hard to do. It all depends on the person and the situation.

For more information visit

What is 'High functioning Autism'?

Some people still use the term 'high functioning autism' to refer to autistic people who also have a learning disability. “High-functioning autism” isn’t an official medical term or diagnosis and, although some people can find it offensive, it’s an informal term some people use when they talk about people with an autism spectrum condition who can speak, read, write, and handle basic life skills like eating and getting dressed. Autistic people choose to refer to themselves and their condition in several ways; autistic, Aspie, Asperger's, on the spectrum, etc. These names all mean, more or less, the same.

What is the difference between the two?

The main difference has to do with the lack of a diagnosis of learning disabilities and the fact the person with 'high functioning autism' can, in principle be fully independent. Even though this is true in theory, some people really struggle to manage regular day to day activities and might end up needing support to live independent lives.

What is a Learning disability?

A learning disability affects the way a person understands information and how they communicate. This means they can have difficulty:

  • understanding new or complex information
  • learning new skills
  • coping independently


According to Mencap, the definition of learning disability is: A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities – for example household tasks, socialising or managing money – which affects someone for their whole life.

People with a learning disability tend to take longer to learn and may need support to develop new skills, understand complicated information and interact with other people. (

What is a learning difficulty?

A person with a learning difficulty may be described as having specific problems processing certain forms of information. 

Unlike a learning disability, a learning difficulty does not affect general intelligence (IQ).  An individual may often have more than one specific learning difficulty (for example, dyslexia and dyspraxia are often encountered together), and other conditions may also be experienced alongside each other.

We follow Mencap's definitions of Learning Disabilities 

What is a screening?

A screening means carrying out a test or assessment to know if you are likely to have a condition. It is not a diagnosis, but it will give you a good indication whether or not you might be on the autistic spectrum and will help you decide what to do next.

If you get a normal result (a screen negative result) after a screening test, this means you are at low risk of having the condition you were screened for. This does not mean you will never develop the condition in the future, just that you are low risk at the moment.

If you have a higher-risk result (a screen positive result), it means you may have the condition that you've been tested for. At this point, you will be offered further tests (called diagnostic tests) to confirm if you have the condition. You can then be offered treatment, advice and support. (

What should I expect at my autism screening?

The screening appointment consists of an interview with yourself and, if possible, with an informant, ideally someone that has known you from childhood, like parents, grandparents, older siblings… and can provide additional information about your past difficulties.

We will also carry out a number of tests that have been widely assessed and validated within the UK population.

If you want to see a social story of what a normal screening appointment looks like, please click here.

Do I need a screening?

If you are wondering whether you are autistic or someone has mentioned it to you, you might want to find out more. The screening is the first step towards getting a formal diagnosis, if you live in Barnet.

You are in control of the steps you want to take and who we share your information with. Some people, find that the screening is an answer to many years of struggles and they have said they have found “peace of mind” after knowing the result.

I think I might be autistic, but I don’t want anyone to know, can I keep it private?

Yes. The results of the screening will only be shared with your consent and with those professionals you agree. If you do not want anyone to know, we will not share the result with anyone.

If you want a formal diagnosis by the NHS, however, then we will have to share your results with your GP.

Do I need a diagnosis?

If you want to be completely sure whether you are autistic, you will need to be assessed at the hospital in order to receive an autism diagnosis or discard this possibility.

If you are looking for formal support and for the condition to be included in your medical records, then you need to get a formal diagnosis.

Can I get a diagnosis privately?

Yes, you can. There are many professionals who will carry out an assessment and diagnosis for you. You will have to pay for this privately. This diagnosis might not be recognised by certain bodies as widely as a diagnosis from the NHS.

How do I get referred to the Autism Service?

You can ask any professional that is supporting you (GP, nurse, mental health professional etc.) to refer you, or to make a referral to the Autism Service for you or on behalf of somebody else, please fill in this Autism Referral Form.

I already have a diagnosis, but I need help with other issues, can you help me?

Yes, fill in the Autism Service Referral Form. and explain what things you need help with and we will be back in touch with you

What is a peer support group?

Peer support is when people use their own experiences to help each other.

In peer support everyone's views and experiences are equally valued, rather than anyone being more of an expert than others. How much support you give and receive can vary depending on what feels right for you at different times.

The purpose of the group is to discuss difficulties you might be going through and get advice and support from people who might have been in a similar situation

Can I attend the free workshops you offer?

Yes, you can. But spaces are limited, you need to self-refer to us and let us know that you are interested in attending. We will then confirm availability and you will be asked to pay a £10 refundable deposit to secure your space. If you do not pay the deposit, your space will not be secured.

Deposit will be refunded on the day of the workshop.

Who can be supported by you?

Any adult living in Barnet who has a diagnosis of autism or suspects they are autistic.

 I live outside Barnet, can I be referred to you?

Yes, you can access our events, workshops and peer support groups. There is a cost of £1 for this activities if you live outside Barnet

I live in Barnet but my GP is based outside Barnet, can I refer to your service?

Yes you can, but the pathway to be seen at the hospital might be different depending on your local authority.

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