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Proposed national guidelines for diagnosing autism are aimed at early intervention
The new guidelines have been released for community feedback.
Funded by the National Disability Insurance Agency and developed by the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC), the draft guidelines are the result of a year of consultation with those affected by autism, or experienced in the area.
Project co-ordinator Kiah Evans said currently there was no consistency in the way that autism was diagnosed across the country.
“Not only does the diagnostic process vary between states and territories but it also varies quite substantially between the public and private settings and the other issue is the variation between metropolitan and regional or remote areas,” she said.
“The solution to all of this was to develop a nationally consistent guideline for autism diagnosis in Australia that is a critical reform to ensure there is minimal standards as practice across Australia, there’s good transparency, the confusion around the process is reduced and every individual in Australia is provided with the opportunity to reach their full potential.”
What we know now is that early intervention is absolutely critical
“The research team has been working independently and the guidelines have emerged from the extensive community consultation that we did with hundreds of individuals affected by autism or working with people with autism.”
The guidelines outline a step-by-step process on how to conduct an autism spectrum disorder assessment and aim to create greater consistency nation-wide by doing so.
Bernadette Beasley from Autism Educators Australia works with children with special needs on a daily basis. She said the new guidelines are an important and positive step in speeding up the diagnostic process which helps people on the autism spectrum get the support they need much quicker.
“What we know now is that early intervention is absolutely critical. If we can diagnose and then target those different strategies to support, the impact is amazing and lifelong,” she said.
The draft guidelines are available online for public consultation for six weeks. The research team will review and address all feedback received after October 19 and hope to have the guidelines introduced early in 2018.
Child psychologist Dr Kimberley O’Brien said it is in the best interest of children to have greater consistency in diagnostic practices across the country.
“I think it’s definitely best to be consistent between states. Families need that consistent support,” she said.