New national standard for diagnosis of autism

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The federal government has announced a new national standard for the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

It is thought that around 164,000 Australians, including 136,000 children and young people under the age of 25, live with ASD. It represents a 79 per cent increase from 2009.

According to the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), around 50,000 of the over 170,000 participants in the NDIS are living with ASD.

Social services minister Paul Fletcher said ASD is a complex condition with increasing prevalence in Australia.

“This guideline brings greater clarity to the way Autism is diagnosed – that’s good news for the families of people undergoing assessment,” he said.

“The new guideline will drive better diagnostic standards so people receive optimum and comprehensive assessment that directs them to the right supports.

“The guideline includes a step-by-step, best-practice process for health professionals conducting an autism assessment and is supported by case studies and templates.”

Health minister Greg Hunt said the guideline was developed by the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC) in consultation with more than 1,000 autistic adults, family members, clinicians and policymakers.

“The guideline recommendations are approved by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), demonstrating they are based on best available scientific practice and developed to rigorous standards.

“I congratulate the guideline research Executive Committee chaired by Prof Andrew Whitehouse and coordinated by Dr Kiah Evans, the Steering Committee and all the research staff for their comprehensive, rigorous and inclusive approach to the development and production of this timely work," he said.

Autism CRC has been funded by the NDIA to undertake a trial of a functional assessment tool for autism - the recently published Pediatric Evaluation of Disability Inventory - Computer Adaptive Test for autism spectrum disorder (PEDI-CAT ASD).