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  • Writer's pictureLeilanie Pakoa

Diagnosing ADHD and ASD in Australia

Let me start by confirming to you that YES this process is so confusing. There is so much misinformation, different information, and no real consensus which makes diagnosing neurodiversity (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or autism spectrum disorder) in Australia really tricky. Working as a psychologist with children, adolescents, and athletes means I have some insight into this process.

As a psychologist who studied at university for 7 years in Australia (pretty recently) there was not a single subject or course dedicated to ADHD and/or ASD, isn't that wild. Granted I did complete a Master of Sport & Exercise Psychology so may not have had subjects aligned with neurodiversity. However, even through undergraduate studies there were very limited options when it came to developmental psychology or neurodiversity.

aerial perspective of group exercising
Differences in Perspectives

A large part of my development as a psychologist has been doing my own learning and training on assessment, diagnosis, and treatment in relation to neurodiversity. To me, neurodiversity means a different way of viewing the world. I find it uncomfortable using the word "disorder" because I think it adds to the stigma and deficit based view of neurodiverse individuals. From my practice, I've learnt more about myself, my biases, and assumptions through neurodiverse clients who see the world very different to me. I see and validate the perspective that many with diagnosed ADHD and/or ASD experience deficits and delayed functioning, however these "deficits" come from the way in which we have set up our society that just isn't for every type of brain.


Knowledge is power! So let me share some knowledge.

*FYI... there is currently no evidence based diagnosis protocol in Australia. That's why you hear of people going to a doctor/psychiatrist/paediatrician and after one appointment getting a diagnosis and medication.

Diagnosing a child or adolescent with ADHD and/or ASD in Australia

Who can diagnose?

What assessments are used?

Are assessments required for diagnosis?

What are the barriers to assessment and diagnosis?

Diagnosing an adult with ADHD and/or ASD in Australia

Who can diagnose?

As an adult, psychiatrist's are able to formally diagnose. Psychologists are able to complete assessments and provide a professional opinion on whether diagnosis is appropriate. It can be quite difficult to obtain appointments with a psychiatrist so it is worthwhile joining waitlists ASAP while exploring potential diagnoses, which you can continue to do with your treating psychologist.

What assessments are used?

Are assessments required for diagnosis?

What are the barriers to assessment and diagnosis?

I know this can be a tricky space to navigate and emotions can be high. If you have any questions or want some ideas for places based in Brisbane, Australia that can complete assessments please get in contact at We will be more than happy to refer to our connections in this space.

If you are looking for psychological support in relation to skill building, ADHD/ASD diagnoses, parenting strategies, executive functioning delays please reach out. If we are unable to assist we will do our best to provide other options!

Thank you for reading!

Leilanie Pakoa

Principal Psychologist

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