Australians with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can expect optimal clinical care, thanks to the release of the nation’s first national guideline for the assessment and diagnosis of the developmental condition.
Developed by the Autism Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) and funded by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), the guideline will improve the diagnostic consistency of autism across the country, an approach the community has requested for a number of years.
Autism CRC Chief Research Officer, Professor Andrew Whitehouse is proud to release the first guideline of its kind within Australia and hopes it will have a positive impact on the estimated 164,000 Australians living with autism.
“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, autistic and broader autism communities.”
Professor Whitehouse says focus will now turn to ensuring the guideline is adopted and implemented by clinicians and services who assess and diagnose autism across Australia.
“This will ensure everyone can receive the best evidenced diagnostic practices, regardless of their age or location and make informed decisions about next steps.”
Chief Executive Officer of the NDIA, Rob De Luca says the guideline reinforces the organisation’s commitment to supporting a fact-based collaborative approach to autism and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), with sights also set on trialling a functional assessment tool.
“Through funding provided by the NDIA, Autism CRC will now undertake a trial of a functional assessment tool for autism, the recently published ASD version of the Pediatric Evaluation of Disability Inventory - Computer Adaptive Test (PEDI-CAT ASD),” he says.
The trial will evaluate PEDI-CAT ASD as an appropriate tool for comprehensive needs assessments and diagnosis.
Minister for Families and Social Services, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP has welcomed the guideline and says it will ensure people receive optimum and comprehensive assessment, directing them to the support they need.
“This guideline brings greater clarity to the way autism is diagnosed - that’s good news for the families of people undergoing assessment.”
“This is an excellent, well evidence-based and comprehensive guideline for assessment and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders in Australia,” Mr Fletcher says.
Autistic Researcher and co-Chair of the Australian Autism Research Council, Dr Wenn Lawson says the guideline has the potential to make a positive difference to many Australians.
“Having a consistent and appropriate assessment and diagnosis process for autism will make the difference between gaining access to the right support or not. I cannot stress enough the impact this will make.”
Autistic co-Chair of the Australian Autism Alliance (AAA), Paul Micallef says “everybody deserves to receive a consistent and professional service throughout their diagnosis journey regardless of where they live in Australia.”
“We will support the NDIA Autism Advisory Group in reviewing information on barriers to implementation and implications for eligibility. However, there are also broader considerations such as interfaces with other systems, funding, affordability and the capacity of diagnosticians to deliver on the guideline.”
Autism Awareness Australia also expressed their support for the guideline on Twitter.
“Great news. Wonderful initiative that we hope will streamline the process for families across Australia.”
Recommendations within the guideline have been approved by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), meaning the guidelines are nationally recognised and internationally representing current medical knowledge and best practice health care.
The guideline was also developed following consultation with more than 1000 autistic adults, family members, clinicians and policy makers.
To get your hands on a copy of the national guideline, click here.