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New autism guidelines to help provide clarity to families

A new set of guidelines released on October 16 by Autism CRC will become the first nationally-recognised guidelines in Australia and will provide families stronger certainty about autism diagnosis, assessment and support.

The National Guideline which was released by Autism Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC), is expected to ensure a streamlined process for families and health professionals when diagnosing autism and determining the right support.

The guidelines were finalised this month after a two-year project was commissioned by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) in response to the difficulty that thousands of families face when seeking help for individuals with autism.

As well as providing clarity to families and carers of people living with autism, the guidelines will help families understand what kind of support is needed for their loved ones.

Professor Andrew Whitehouse, Autism CRC Chief Research Officer, helped formulate these guidelines: “they [guidelines] provide…a detailed description of the information that needs to be collected during a clinical assessment”.

The guidelines will also point to what type of ongoing support an individual may need and will include “70 recommendations describing the optimal process for assessment and diagnosis of autism in Australia,” according to Whitehouse.

For many years, the process for assessment and diagnosis of autism has differed from state to state across Australia which has caused families to struggle when seeking help with diagnosis and the right support. Moreover, autism has no established biological markers and instead relies on the clinical judgement of behaviour. Symptoms for the condition are also extremely varied and as each health professional has differing levels of skill and experience, this may result in conflicting results.

The guidelines were primarily created for clinicians and health professionals and outlines a recommended diagnostic decision-making process and best-practice processes for autism assessments. The guidelines are also available to families and carers.

Today, over 150,000 Australians live with autism. In 2015, it was recorded that three-quarters of all Australians living with autism were aged between 5 and 24 years of age, which points to the fact that more young Australians are requiring streamlined resources that can help their families understand the disability.

Anyone can receive the National Guideline for the Assessment and Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder by registering on Autism CRC’s website. You can register to download the guide here.

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