A Harm Reduction Approach to Autism Evaluations

We are pleased to share that Anna White, MS, LCMFT, is now able to offer Autism evaluations via telehealth for adults in the states of Maryland and Virginia.

Our Autism Evaluations are informed by Autistic experience with the purpose of supporting you, not questioning you. We take a neurodiversity affirming approach to empower you and collaborate with you, so that you can make sense of what you know about yourself and increase your access to information and resources.

Please see below for answers to frequently asked questions:

Do I need a professional evaluation in order to be Autistic?

Not at all! Your understanding of yourself is valid and you do not need anyone to cosign it in order to be who you are. Autism is not a pathology that needs to be fixed, but rather a style of experiencing the world. Especially as more Autistic adults have come together in recent years to share their perspectives and spread helpful information to more communities, it is becoming less necessary for this information to come from professionals. In addition, access to professional Autism Evaluations has never been equitable. Many people have either been denied access to a diagnosis or denied access to an Autism evaluation at all due to structural discrimination. Just because someone does not have a diagnosis from a professional, does not mean that their experiences are not real. Let’s say it again! Self-diagnosis of Autism and ADHD are valid and so are you!

How can an Autism Evaluation be helpful?

While we dream of a world in which people are simply believed about their experiences and supported based on that, unfortunately many resources still are reserved only for those with professionally given diagnoses. Though of course this does not erase the harm of that process, it is our hope that offering evaluations informed by Autistic experience will increase some access to resources for our community.

For several common reasons, some people also prefer to have support exploring their identity. After all, the purpose of Autism Evaluations is not for you to be told who you are, but rather for you to gain access to tools and conversations that can help you organize your thoughts and experiences so that we can come to a conclusion together.

What is the structure?

Our Autism Evaluation process includes the following appointments, in order:
1. Initial virtual consultation, 90 minutes

  • Before this meeting, you will complete all new client paperwork of the practice and we will schedule the 90 minute consultation appointment.
  • During this meeting, we will discuss what you already know about yourself, what you have learned already about Autism and ADHD, your social history, and your questions and thoughts about evaluations.
  • You will get a chance to learn more details about the tools we will use and have space to decide if that process is right for you.
  • If at the end of this meeting, you realize you do not want to continue at this time, no worries! You will not be obligated to participate in the rest of the Autism Evaluation process. You can choose to not schedule another meeting, to switch to consultations or therapy without an Autism Evaluation, or to return for another consultation in the future. This decision does not have to be permanent.
  • If at the end of this meeting, you decide you would like to continue with the Autism Evaluation, you will move into the next step of the process.

2. Self-report questionnaires

  • If you choose to participate in the full Autism Evaluation, you will receive directions and links to complete a few questionnaires at home.
  • These questionnaires might take about an hour total, or could be broken into 3 smaller pieces. They will ask questions about how you feel in social situations, how you manage tasks, what emotions you feel, and what sensations you like and don’t like.
  • You can use these tools on any device with an internet connection, but a computer or tablet may be the easiest to use for many people.
  • There is no one tool that can rule Autism or ADHD in or out by itself, so there is zero pressure to answer any of these tools “correctly” in order to be seen as who you are.

3. Clinical discussion session, 120 minutes

  • Once your questionnaires are done, we will also gather information about your experiences in a more conversational way, using specially designed interview tools.
  • The questions in these “interviews” act as maps to help us name and organize your experiences in a similar order to the official diagnostic criteria for Autism and/or ADHD.
  • We use the word “Interview” here not like a job interview. These lists of questions are specifically designed to set you up well to share what you feel, not to screen you out.
  • We will also talk about what you thought of the questionnaires you took, what you want me to know about your answers, and see what your initial results look like.

4. Clinician provided report detailing how your experiences and scores relate to those of the wider Autistic community

  • Before your next session, the information you provided will be compiled into a detailed report for you to keep for yourself or use for advocacy as you see fit.
  • This report will also include recommendations and tools that you may find useful based on the experiences you have shared.

5. Clinical report feedback session, 90 minutes

  • Finally, we will come together to review your Autism Evaluation report. This can be a chance for collaborative editing to make sure your experiences have been recorded accurately and with language that you prefer.
  • You will also have a chance to participate in creating an advocacy document and ask for any additional recommendations you would like included in your Autism Evaluation report.
  • And, of course, your feedback for us on going through this process would be a great gift to have.

What is the cost?

The total services provided in this package costs $1,998. This includes 5 hours of session time with your clinician, as well as 4 hours of time outside of these meetings for your clinician to process assessments, review any past records you may have brought with you, coordinate with any other providers that you have requested to be included, and compile your Autism Evaluation report. We accept payment by credit card.

Can I use out-of-network insurance to help pay for the cost?

Unfortunately, no. The cost of the Autism Evaluation, including the sessions with your clinician, are not reimbursable by out-of-network insurance. We accept payment by credit card or debit card via our secure client management platform.

Do you have to interview a family member?

Nope! Our process does not require you to bring in any other people to talk about you.

Historically, many people have been told that diagnosis requires interviewing someone else who knew you in childhood or for a very long time. The DSM (our diagnostic manual) specifically states that this is not necessary for diagnosis. We understand that there can be many barriers to including a family member in evaluations, including not wanting to. After all, who knows you better than you?

Does this evaluation include ADHD?

Yes it does! Many Autistic people have ADHD, and many people with ADHD are Autistic, and we are here to support all of your needs. The diagnosis of ADHD, if applicable to you, will not cost any additional fee.

How long would I have to wait for results after the Autism Evaluation is done?

Not long at all! Our process is collaborative and transparent. At the end of your second session, many clients will start to have an idea of what is making sense for them. If at that point we need more information to come to a conclusion together, you will be a part of deciding what information would be needed and why. Then we will get to work on your report right away, crossing Ts and dotting Is. Your report will be available by the time of your next meeting, which may be in 1-3 weeks depending on scheduling availability.

Why does it seem like everyone is Autistic these days?

We hear this a lot from our neurodivergent clients! This is due partly to increased knowledge and improved screening, and also due to how social structures and social media work.

In the last few years much effort has been put into improving awareness about neurodiversity for both the general public and professional communities. This has been sorely needed, since research suggests potentially 1 in 6 adults coming to therapy are Autistic.

Neurodivergent people tend to find each other and gravitate toward similar communities, so when we arrive to those spaces, the group is skewed away from the larger population’s demographics to have more neurodivergent people in it.

Social media works like that too, with algorithms sending us to stories and people that resonate with our experiences. This means that neurodivergent people will see more posts and pages that are neurodivergent, and so will our neurotypical loved ones whose algorithms are influenced by their connection with us!

Can I use my Autism Evaluation report to apply for disability, advocate for work or school accommodations, or get supportive medications?

Each provider of these accommodations and services may have their own idea of what is “supposed” to be in an Autism Evaluation, whether or not that is founded on any professional guideline or research basis (it’s not – there is no one tool that is either necessary or sufficient for diagnosing Autism or ADHD). While we have taken great care in developing this process to balance use of the more neurodiversity-affirming tools available with the need for this report to be useful to you in advocacy, we cannot guarantee that a particular provider will “accept” our report.

If you plan to use this diagnosis to seek a particular service or accommodation, we strongly encourage you to find out what requirements that provider might have *before* beginning your assessment.

I have another question not part of this list…

Great! We are very glad to answer your questions. Please reach out to Anna directly.