Are you an adult in Singapore considering getting assessed for whether you're on the autism spectrum? I embarked on this journey myself in 2023, and while I ultimately received a negative diagnosis for autism, I continue to feel a profound connection with those who are on the spectrum and wish to serve as an ally and advocate. In response to several inquiries, I decided to compile my insights and resources to hopefully help others who are interested in this path.

Why Get Assessed for Autism as an Adult?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) encompasses a range of conditions that present challenges in social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech, and nonverbal communication. Adults who suspect they might be on the spectrum[1] seek a diagnosis for several reasons:

  • Ongoing Challenges: Persistent difficulties in areas like social interaction, communication, flexible thinking, or sensory sensitivities that significantly impact daily life and relationships might prompt one to seek an assessment in hopes of finding clarity and direction.
  • Self-understanding and Validation: Gaining insights into the reasons behind particular preferences and behaviours can bring immense relief, validation and self-acceptance. It also equips the individual to better advocate for themselves and seek necessary adjustments.
  • Access to Support and Resources: A diagnosis opens doors to specialised services and interventions tailored for adults on the autism spectrum, whether at home, school, or in the workplace. It also facilitates connections with a community of others who have similar experiences.
  • Improving Personal Relationships: A diagnosis sheds light on the social and communication challenges that an autistic individual may face, improving understanding and support from loved ones.

For many adults in Singapore, the decision to pursue an autism diagnosis can be daunting. The social stigma of being labelled as having a "disability" creates real concerns about potential repercussions such as losing one's job or straining relationships with loved ones. Individuals in progressive industries like tech, where there is less stigma around neurodivergence, may see more benefits than risks in gaining self-understanding and resolving long-held questions about their identity. Ultimately I don't think there's a universally right or wrong decision. It's a deeply personal choice that hinges on individual circumstances and values.


  1. Note that while autism has been described as a spectrum scale in the past, doctors currently diagnose autism with levels, ranging from 1 to 3. Read more about that on Verywell Health. I also prefer the concept of a wheel spectrum to the concept of a linear spectrum. See a great visual of the autism wheel in this post from the Goally blog. ↩︎

What to Expect from an Adult Autism Assessment

Adult autism assessments in Singapore can vary depending on which provider one chooses, but they generally follow a similar structure:

  1. Initial Consultation: This session involves a detailed interview where the psychologist or psychiatrist gathers information, including developmental history, behaviour patterns, and existing challenges. The clinician would then be able to recommend the number of tests required.
  2. Diagnostic Assessments and Tests: Assessments may include interviews, observations, standardised cognitive tests, and questionnaires with the individual. In adult autism assessments, clinicians sometimes like to do "collateral interviews" with people close to the individual, such as family members or partners, but these interviews are sometimes inconvenient to arrange and may not be essential for an autism diagnosis.
  3. Feedback Session: After the assessments, a feedback session is scheduled to discuss the assessment results as well as any further recommendations.
  4. Brief Memo or Comprehensive Report: The clinician compiles a detailed report, outlining the assessment results, the diagnostic conclusion, and recommended interventions or supports, though this can come at significant cost. A more affordable choice can be to opt for a brief memo instead.

Exploring Diagnosis Options: Private vs. Public Routes in Singapore

Best Budget-friendly Option: Free Assessment for Adults Under 30

If you're between the ages of 16 and 30, you're eligible for a free mental health check via the Community Health Check Assessment Team (CHAT) service from IMH.

This is a single session and is less comprehensive than getting a diagnosis, which involves multiple assessment sessions. Still, it is conducted with the same standard of professionalism, can offer similar benefits to a full assessment, and is of course the most economical option for those on a tight budget. Be prepared to set aside 1 to 2 hours for the session.

Public Autism Assessment Process & Costs [2023]

I was above 30 at the time I sought diagnosis, so I had to pursue an alternative route. The following is based on my own personal experience getting assessed in the public system in 2023. Here’s a step-by-step guide and a cost breakdown:

Step 1: Start by visiting a General Practitioner (GP) to obtain a referral to a specialist at a public health institution.
Cost: $15 for a GP consultation at a polyclinic.

Step 2: Attend an initial consultation with a psychiatrist, who will evaluate your situation and determine the necessary tests.
Cost: $32 at Alexandra Hospital.
Note: The psychiatrist validated my concerns and offered a referral to private therapists who were experienced in supporting individuals with autism. Even without an autism diagnosis, I was given access to these therapists at a subsidised rate. He mentioned that a full assessment was optional and estimated it would cost between $700-$800.

Step 3: Undergo a comprehensive psychological assessment conducted in two sessions at Alexandra Hospital.
Costs:

  • Session with me alone: $234
  • Session with my parents alone: $134

Step 4: Discuss the assessment results during a feedback session.
Cost: $32 for the session, plus approximately $50 for a brief memo of the assessment results. A more detailed report would cost hundreds of dollars more.

Total cost: Approximately $500

Disclaimer: Prices may vary based on individual circumstances.

Private Autism Assessment Options & Costs [2024]

I researched several clinics that offer assessments for autism in adults, asking about their processes for ASD and ADHD assessments. Here’s a summary of my findings:

  • Psychology Matters (Psychologist: Mr. Gifford Chan): Highly recommended within my network as a specialist in adult autism.
    • Initial consult alone: 50 min for $250
    • Total costs including initial consult:
      • $3,000 for ASD (4-5 sessions)
      • $2,250 for ADHD (4-5 sessions)
      • $4,000 for combined ASD + ADHD (6 sessions)
    • Website
  • PsychConnect (Psychologists: Dr. Sanveen Kang and Ms. Samantha Ng):
    • Initial consult alone: 50 min for $327 (Dr Kang) or $272.50 (Ms Ng)
    • Total costs including initial consult:
      • starts from $2,000 for ASD (basic price includes brief memo, +$700 for a detailed final report)
      • starts from $1,530 for ADHD (basic price includes brief memo, +$700 for a detailed final report)
      • starts from $3,000 for both ASD and ADHD (includes detailed final report)
    • Website
  • Promises (Psychologists: Ms. Tan Su-Lynn and Ms. Nicole): They accept Cigna insurance.
    • Initial consult alone:  $425 for 1.5 hrs
    • Total costs including initial consult:
      • starts from $2,000 for ASD
      • starts from $1,800 for ADHD
    • Website
  • ISADD, Intervention Services for Autism and Developmental Delay (Psychiatrist Dr. Lee Tzu Min): Primarily assesses children; not recommended for adults.

Disclaimer: these private prices are current as of April 2024.

Choosing Between Private vs. Public Routes:

Public healthcare system wait times can extend from 1-3 months between each session due to high demand. In contrast, private clinics often offer quicker appointments, ranging from 1-4 weeks between sessions, but at a higher cost. I chose the public route due to budget constraints and ended up paying less than the initially estimated $700-$800.

Practical Tips for Pursuing an ASD Diagnosis in Singapore

Managing Costs and Seeking Financial Assistance

Undergoing an assessment for autism, though rewarding, can be financially demanding. Here are a few things to look into to manage your costs effectively:

  • Secure health insurance first: If you plan to apply for health or life insurance in the near future, it'd be wise to complete your insurance application before seeking an autism diagnosis. After you obtain a positive diagnosis, insurance providers you approach in future may raise premiums, increase loading fees, and impose exclusions on autism-related claims.
  • Free assessment for individuals aged 16–30: If you're below the age of 30, as I mentioned above, check out the CHAT service from IMH.
  • Public Sector Subsidies: The public system offers significant subsidies, potentially reducing costs by 60% up to even 100% for certain groups like the Merdeka Generation. Furthermore, some insurance plans, including certain Integrated Shield Plans, cover outpatient mental health treatments at public institutions. Financial assistance schemes like Medifund and CHAS are also available. More details can be found at Therapy Helpers.
  • Private Insurance: While private clinics may not accept government subsidies, they often accept other types of insurance. Check with your insurance provider to see if these costs can be covered.

How to Prepare for Your Appointments

To maximise the benefits of your assessment sessions, I would recommend the following:

  • Document symptoms and behaviours: Prepare a list of your symptoms and behaviours, especially those that illustrate how these challenges impair your life. You may find it helpful to refer to an autism wheel for this exercise. Record these in a notebook or digital document and bring it to your appointment.
  • Be ready to Unmask: During the assessment, it's important to present an authentic view of your challenges. While it may be tempting to "mask" to show how far you've come, being open about your difficulties will provide a more accurate basis for your diagnosis.

How to Discuss Your Neurodiversity Journey with Others

During this months-long process, it's normal to feel the urge to share your experience and revelations with loved ones. A few things to consider:

  • Expect varied reactions: Not everyone will understand or appreciate the significance of your journey. Be prepared for a range of reactions—from curiosity and support to scepticism and disinterest.
  • Streamline how you explain autism: After you tell someone about your journey, you may get many follow-up questions, and repeatedly explaining autism and correcting misconceptions can become very draining. To make this process more scalable, I recommend assembling a list of resources about autism that you can effortlessly direct others to.
  • Choose your audience wisely: While you might feel the urge to share your experiences broadly, consider confining detailed discussions to the people who are genuinely interested and excited for you. This can help conserve your emotional energy for more meaningful interactions.
  • Avoid labelling others: In the course of your own research on the condition, it’s tempting to interpret behaviours in others as indicative of autism. However, labelling—whether accurate or not—can be sensitive and provoke emotional reactions. The prudent thing to do is to keep such observations to yourself unless solicited.

FAQs

What's the difference between an assessment and a diagnosis?

To determine if you have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), you must undergo a psychological assessment, which may result in a diagnosis. This diagnosis could confirm the presence (positive) or absence (negative) of ASD. Sometimes, assessments may be inconclusive or indicate other conditions.

Can I get assessed for autism by my therapist / counsellor?

In Singapore, a formal autism diagnosis must be made by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist, not a counselor. Even though some therapists may be licensed psychologists, if they do not have the specialised training to diagnose autism then they will not offer that service.

Is it better to get diagnosed by a psychologist or psychiatrist?

In Singapore, both psychologists and psychiatrists can conduct these assessments and provide diagnoses. The difference is that psychiatrists are medical doctors who can prescribe medication, while psychologists cannot prescribe medication but focus more on therapy and counselling.

Why is the assessment more expensive than the clinician's regular consultation fees?

The assessment process involves extensive testing and analysis, which requires additional time and resources beyond a typical consultation.

Embracing the Diagnosis Journey

If you've read this far, you're likely seriously considering walking this dark and thorny road less travelled. I believe you have a strong reason for thinking so and lovingly encourage you to proceed. At the very least, I recommend starting with an initial consultation with a psychologist or psychiatrist in the public system (Step 2 in my guide). This step can provide access to helpful subsidised therapy, even if you decide not to pursue an official diagnosis.

My path toward an autism diagnosis was long and emotionally taxing. Despite being doubted and challenged by several people along the way and not receiving the positive diagnosis I had expected, I am profoundly grateful for and proud of my decision to embark on this journey. The resources and understanding I have gained are invaluable, empowering me with renewed agency over my life. This journey, though challenging, offers tremendous rewards and a wonderful opportunity for personal growth.


What are your thoughts on the autism assessment process in Singapore? Do you have experiences, insights, or questions about it you'd like to share? I'm eager to hear from you and learn from your experiences, so please drop your comments below!

Guide to Getting Assessed for Autism as an Adult in Singapore [2024]

A comprehensive guide on public and private routes for adult autism assessments and ADHD diagnostics in Singapore in 2024, including detailed cost breakdowns, clinic recommendations, the best option for those on a budget, financial assistance, and essential tips for preparing for your assessment.