New national approach to diagnosing autism

New guidelines aim to create greater consistency in diagnosing autism in Australia.

Across Australia, the diagnosis practices of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has differed in every state.

As a result, many people with autism and their families have received various access to services and have even had to be re-diagnosed when moving interstate.

With more than 10,0000 children under the age of 12 years diagnosed with autism in 2015, the Autism Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) received funding from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) to better streamline the process.

Last month, Australia’s first national guideline for the assessment and diagnosis of autism was released to ensure all individual and their families receive optimal clinical care.

Autism CRC Chief Research Officer Professor Andrew Whitehouse said the community had been requesting a national and consistent approach to autism diagnosis for many years.

"We are pleased to officially release a guideline that responds to this need. The guideline has been developed through a comprehensive research process and in close consultation with the clinical and autism communities," Professor Andrew Whitehouse said.

"Work will now be undertaken to ensure this guideline is adopted and implemented by clinicians and services across Australia who are involved in autism assessment and diagnosis. This will ensure everyone can receive the best evidenced diagnostic practices, regardless of their age or location, and make informed decisions about next steps.”

Autistic individuals, as well as their families, were significant participants in the guideline development process by being involved in interviews, workshops and surveys.

The New Guideline:

  • Emphasises the need to undertake any assessment of autism concerns within the context of a broader neurodevelopmental and behavioural assessment.
  • Supports a more consistent approach to neurodevelopmental and behavioural assessment.
  • Supports assessment of neurodevelopmental and behavioural problems based on fairness, equity and respect for individual needs and variations, as well as a strengths-based approach and partnerships with the individual, parents and other professionals.
  • Clarifies that functional and care needs of a child, not a diagnosis, should be the primary determining factor for gaining access to support services.