What online self-assessment tests could I use?

There is currently no blood test or brain scan to confirm Autism. At present, diagnosis is based entirely upon a diagnostician’s comparison of challenges, behaviours, preferences (and ideally strengths) with a set of behavioural criteria – as defined by clinical manuals (DSM-5 and ICD-11).

That said, a quick Internet search will throw up lots of links to possible tests. Some have been clinically validated, many have not. While not definitive, they will express a view on whether you have more than just a few Autistic traits.

There are a number of important things to remember about these tests however:

  • Alone, they cannot confirm a diagnosis
  • Alone, employers and educational institutions are not obliged to accept these as evidence of Autism, and may request formal documentation
  • Very few have been clinically validated which means the majority should be treated with caution

A give away about a test’s authenticity (or indeed the websites moral compass) is a request for payment. You should NOT need to pay for the test results. If a website takes you right through a questionnaire, then asks for money to see the answer – don’t pay! There are reliable, validated on-line tests available for free.

The two most commonly used, and ones which should be familiar to your Doctor, are:

The AQ test – The Autistic Quotient test was developed by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen in 2001.

It is a quick screening tool and does not require a clinician to administer it. With just 50 questions it reliably covers: social skills, attention switching, attention to detail, communication, and imagination.

In this test, it is important to look behind the illustrations given for some of the questions. Given when the test was developed, the illustrations tend to follow the original, male oriented presentation of Autism. For example, special interest examples follow those originally identified from male respondents – cars, birds, trains. If these interests do not describe you, but the behavioural quality they represent does, try substituting something you are really passionate about, e.g. a pop band, an author, or animals.

Any score above 32 suggests you may meet the criteria for Autism if formally tested.

The Ritvo test – This test is a screener for adults only. The 80 questions cover four areas: language, social relatedness, sensory-motor and circumscribed interests. It is designed to be used by a clinician but is sometimes used by people interested in assessing themselves.

The test was validated in 2010 and is highly accurate in distinguishing between those likely to gain an Autism diagnosis and those not.

The result is presented as a single number, but with four additional sub-scores. The sub-scores indicate areas of strength/challenge in the four categories above. When the test was validated for clinical use, it determined any score over 65 indicated likely Autism.

If you are just looking to underscore your self-identification these tests can be enough. If you need to produce firm evidence for employers or educational institutions, you will likely need a referral to a diagnostician for formal testing.