Intended for healthcare professionals


Assessment and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 21 October 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d6628
  1. Lonnie Zwaigenbaum, associate professor
  1. 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Alberta, Autism Research Centre, Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, Edmonton, AB, Canada T5G 0B7
  1. lonnie.zwaigenbaum{at}

New NICE guidelines set clear evidence based standards for quality care

The linked article by Baird and colleagues (doi:10.1136/bmj.d6360) summarises the recent National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidance on the recognition, referral, and diagnosis of children and young people with autism spectrum disorders (hereafter, autism).1 The guidance provides a comprehensive list of practice recommendations that have far reaching implications for care providers in the United Kingdom.1 2 The guidelines were developed in partnership with the National Collaborating Centre for Women’s and Children’s Health, with substantial stakeholder input, including parents, carers, and community practitioners. There are 68 recommendations related to initial recognition, referral, diagnostic evaluation, and medical investigation of children and adolescents with possible autism. The guidelines provide a clear blueprint for diagnosing autism that is aimed at improving family experience and optimising outcomes.

Foremost is the recommendation for collaboration across healthcare, social services, and the education and voluntary sectors to establish a local autism strategy group in each community. This group should ensure that early recognition, referral, and diagnosis of autism are well coordinated and guided by principles of evidence based practice and family centred care. It would also be responsible for streamlining the assessment process to minimise delays and ensure timely access to support and intervention services. It is recommended that the care pathway includes focused developmental surveillance …

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