The Retreat has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by developing its own virtual assessment process for adults and children with autism.

Autism assessments at The Retreat have traditionally relied on a high level of face to face interaction – something which has proved extremely challenging due to lockdown and social distancing measures.

However, after several months of hard work by psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists, a new online pathway has been developed which means complete assessments for adults and children with suspected autism can now be done remotely.

The Retreat’s autism and ADHD service lead Dr Katja Osswald said: “Ideally, in order to assess someone’s social, communication and interaction skills, you want to be in the same room in order to see their facial expressions, their body language and the like.

“Doing that kind of examination to the same level of thoroughness through video is something we didn’t think was possible, but thanks to a multi-disciplinary approach, and exchange with other national and international experts, we have found new ways of gathering the information we need to assess adults online.

“It’s exciting news because we can continue to provide services to our NHS patients and we can also look to expand assessments to private clients in the region and across the rest of the country.”

The new online assessment protocols will not work for every person, but it is thought the vast majority of clients will be able to benefit.

More information on how to access The Retreat’s autism services are available at