21 Nov 2022

The limitations of online tests and online assessments for autism

People are increasingly searching for terms like ‘online test’ and ‘online assessment’ when looking for a diagnostic assessment service. An online ‘test’ is completely different …

People are increasingly searching for terms like ‘online test’ and ‘online assessment’ when looking for a diagnostic assessment service.

An online ‘test’ is completely different from an online ‘assessment’. A ‘test’ is a screening questionnaire that tells you if you have signs or symptoms of autism, and if it would be worthwhile pursuing a formal assessment. It does not provide a diagnosis and it simplifies a complex developmental disorder, to the extent that it is likely to provide unhelpful information – i.e. it tells you that you have a high chance of having autism when you do not or vice versa.

At The Autism Service, we do not use tests or questionnaires to screen for autism for this very reason. An online autism test is just not sensitive enough and can impact client anxiety and expectations in an unhelpful way. We see no correlation between scores on an online autism test and the outcome of formal diagnostic assessments.

An online ‘assessment’ is different. It is a diagnostic assessment that is completed through the use of video technology. An interview may be completed and observation of the client and the outcome is a diagnosis or not.

We do not use video technology at The Autism Service to complete assessments, preferring to see our clients face-to-face, and there are several reasons for this.

What are the issues with an online Autism Assessment?

Autism is a disorder of social communication and interaction. To diagnose it, you need to observe and assess how a person communicates and interacts.

Now, as soon as you put a video camera between two people – with or without autism – communication and interaction are distorted. The simplest example of this is eye contact. How can you assess eye contact when no one is sure where to look? In our opinion, you can’t.

The gold-standard tools that we have available to us, such as the ADOS-2, are also not validated for use online. So, you would have to use a home-made alternative – something that we think is unnecessary and not acceptable.

And there is the issue of patient experience. We want it to be positive – life is hard enough for our clients already – and the additional pressure and social demands created by use of a video camera only heighten anxiety. Which in turn affects social skills and further lessens the accuracy of the assessment.

What are the implications of an online Autism Assessment?

With an improved public understanding of autism, we are receiving more enquiries from people who are questioning if a diagnosis they received previously from an online assessment is correct.

This is concerning – removing a diagnosis is distressing for all involved. We would, therefore, say that in the case of diagnosing autism, no assessment is better than an online assessment.

Related posts

Autism/ASD The History of Autism
history of autism

7 May, 2024

The History of Autism
The word autism was first used medically by Swiss psychiatrist Paul Eugen Bleuler in the early 20th Century. However, the meaning of the word has …
ADHD The Impact of Diet and Nutrition on ADHD 
ADHD diet

29 Apr, 2024

The Impact of Diet and Nutrition on ADHD 
Earlier this month, fitness guru Joe Wicks came under fire for appearing to claim that ADHD is caused by poor diet. He’s since clarified that he believes …
ADHD The History of ADHD
history of adhd

14 Apr, 2024

The History of ADHD
ADHD as we know it has only been recognised as a condition since the 1980s leading to media panic about diagnosis rates at the time, …
Adult Autism Types of Autism Explained

11 Apr, 2024

Types of Autism Explained
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is defined by a range of symptoms and degree of needs. All individuals with ASD will share autistic traits, such as …