Getting a special needs diagnosis

If you think something is not right with your baby or child, the place to start is by talking to your health visitor and your GP.

You may know that your toddler/child doesn't quite seem to be walking, talking, moving, interacting like other toddlers/children, but what's clear to you, living with your child 24/7, may not be quite as apparent to a GP who sees them for a 10-minute appointment.

A lot of special needs take specialist skills to diagnose, so you need to find that specialist. If you're not getting anywhere, ask your GP for a referral to a specialist who understands the particular issues you have concerns about. There's a list of useful organisations in our special needs webguide.

What is the CHAT test?

CHAT stands for Checklist for Autism in Toddlers and is a checklist for markers of autism spectrum disorders.

It's not a diagnostic tool, it just aims to identify absent behaviours which may indicate a child may possibly be at risk for ASD. These behaviours are things such as joint attention (eg pointing to show something to someone) and pretend play (such as pretending to pour tea).

Failing to exhibit these behaviours does not necessarily mean your child is autistic; they might just not be very keen on pouring tea. If your child fails the CHAT, make sure you are referred to a paediatrician for more detailed assessment.

One mum advises: "Read up enough to convince your GP that you know more than they do - they'll refer you up the food chain to a specialist soon enough."

Pushing for a diagnosis can make you feel guilty, as if you're somehow 'making' your child disabled. But Mumsnetters agree that however rubbish it makes you feel, you need to push for all the help you can get, including a diagnosis, and not see this as confirming your worst fears but as helping your child.

In some cases it can take a wearisomely long time to get a diagnosis. Be prepared to be persistent.

As this mum says: "Do not be fobbed off by professionals who talk about the perils of 'labelling' your child, as if this was somehow going to wreck their life. It's not a 'label', it's a 'diagnosis', and a diagnosis is the gateway to therapy and services which can change your child's life."

What Mumsnetters say about getting a special needs diagnosis

  • I've heard people say things like 'I don't think my child is autistic because he is affectionate/has good eye contact/is bright'. None of those things necessarily rules out autism. At the same time, just because a child likes to line things up or likes to spin round in circles it doesn't necessarily indicate autism. Coppertop
  • My GP first said possible dyspraxia; doctors since have said possible autistic spectrum. I think you have to focus on the fact that they are what they are; as long as their needs are met, then the label is not important. debs40
  • Most of the time, the only way to get any help for your child is by being the parent who asks loudest. Not necessarily in a stroppy manner (although this can help sometimes), but being the person who phones to check an appointment has been made, then phones again when it hasn't. And then phones again, and again. Silverfrog

It's worth remembering that other Mumsnetters have almost certainly been down the path you're on and know handy shortcuts and how to avoid particular pitfalls, so head for the Special needs Talk forums for advice and support.


Last updated: about 2 hours ago