Autism Diagnostic Service (LADS)

This section is for you if you want to refer yourself for an autism assessment or if you’ve been accepted for an assessment.

We know that the idea of completing a referral or going for an autism assessment can be daunting. We hope the information below will help you understand what to expect.


We provide the option to self-refer. To do this, please fill in the Leeds Autism Diagnostic Service Referral Form and return it to Please complete the form in full and include as much information as possible. Referrals which aren’t complete or which don’t meet the referral criteria below will be declined.

To self-refer, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be above the age of 18. If you are below the age of 18 you are advised to be referred to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).
  • Be registered with a GP in Leeds one of practices listed as a Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group member practice
  • Consent to the referral: please ensure that you understand the assessment process and are willing to take part. Please also be prepared for the possible outcomes of the assessment, including the possibility of not being diagnosed with autism.
  • Have experienced autistic features during childhood: Autism is a developmental condition and the features of autism are usually apparent in childhood. Be prepared to share your childhood experiences with professionals in the service. During the assessment process it is helpful to have information available from family members. If school reports, speech and language reports or medical reports from childhood are available, this can help the process. If information from a family member is not available, we can still go ahead with the assessment, but it is more difficult to reach a firm conclusion.

In this case, we’ll send you a letter within five days advising you what to do next. This may involve getting more information from you or directing you to another service that could better meet your needs.

If your referral is accepted, you will be sent a letter within five days to let you know you have been placed on the waiting list and advising of the next steps.

This letter will also include a ‘Request for Information’ and ‘Developmental History’ form. Please complete both of these forms and return them within 14 days. If we don’t receive these forms within this timeframe, we will discharge you.   We set strict time limits on returning forms because we aim to see you for your first appointment within 13 weeks of receiving your referral, although please be aware that it can sometimes take longer than this depending on staff availability.

Your assessment and appointments

The first appointment you have with us is called an initial assessment. The purpose of this appointment is to gather relevant background information and start the autism assessment process. It is normally with one clinician (although occasionally other staff members or trainees will be present) and lasts about two hours.

The second stage of the assessment process is called the developmental history. Autism is a developmental condition, which means autistic features are usually present in childhood. Therefore, it’s important for us to gather some information about what you were like as a child. Ideally this is from a parent, but if a parent is not available, we can gather information from other relatives, family friends, or school reports. The information can be gathered using a questionnaire, by telephone, video call or face-to-face appointment. If you don’t have anybody to provide a developmental history, we can still proceed with the autism assessment, but it may not be possible to come to a definite diagnostic decision.

If possible, we will aim to do the initial assessment with you and the developmental history with your relative at the same time. If this is not possible, the developmental history will take place after your initial assessment.

The outcome of your assessment

Following the completion of the initial assessment and developmental history, there are three possible outcomes:

  • Autism diagnosed
  • Autism not diagnosed
  • Clinical decision meeting required

We diagnose autism in about 60% of cases. There are various reasons for autism not being diagnosed, the most common being that your difficulties may be better explained by something else – such as mental health issues, another neurodevelopmental condition such as ADHD, or childhood trauma. We will always explain the reasons for not making an autism diagnosis and if necessary will signpost/refer you on to other services for further assessment and treatment of other conditions.

In more complex cases, the service may invite you to return for further assessment. This is called a clinical decision meeting. Normally, it’s a face-to-face appointment with at least two of our clinicians, lasting about two hours.  During the meeting we may ask you to do some simple activities (such as looking at pictures of social situations) which help us check for autism. These activities are adapted from the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) assessment tool.

Follow up appointments

Service users who meet the diagnostic criteria for autism will be offered a follow-up appointment. This appointment will provide further information about autism and will point you in the direction of other relevant support services. Additional peer support follow-up sessions are normally available on request from the Leeds Autism Hub.

Second opinions

We sometimes get requests for second opinions. These are normally from people who have undergone an autism assessment, either at Leeds Autism Diagnostic Service or through another autism service, and do not agree with the diagnosis.

We will only offer a second opinion when new and compelling information is present – normally this means extra developmental or collateral history from a mental health professional or close relative.


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