A group of experts from Australia developed the National Autism Diagnosis Guidelines recently. Shortly after, it was released for consultation. These guidelines for Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are expected to greatly benefit young patients, especially girls who have conditions that fall within the spectrum.
The draft ASD diagnostic criteria were developed in cooperation with the Autism Cooperative Research Centre and the National Disability Insurance Agency. According to Professor Andrew Whitehouse, one of the individuals behind the new guidelines, mentioned that the Autism Spectrum Disorder checklist they had developed, would add much-needed consistency to Autism diagnoses throughout Australia.
Despite the existence of the DSM 5 Autism criteria checklist, the problem of delayed diagnosis has continued to persist in Australia. Varying interpretations and established practices by the different states have led to this continued problem. This is why the new guidelines were built upon the earlier frameworks contained in the DSM manual with a re-evaluation of the current evidence base as well as a comprehensive series of community consultations.
Prior to the development of the criteria, each state had their own way of diagnosing Autism. Whitehouse expects that with the rollout of the new ASD diagnostic criteria, states will initially resist implementation as each state has been doing things differently for the longest time. But in the long run, a uniform set of guidelines will provide a great deal of benefit for the local population who are within the spectrum.
Aiding Earlier Diagnosis in Women
Bernadette Beasley and Katrina Trist, Autism educators, and both with children on the Autism spectrum are optimistic with the new guidelines.
The two mention that Autism in girls is harder to detect as they are better able to mask their symptoms. Despite the implementation of a toddler Autism test, girls will tend to show a different profile relative to that shown by boys. The difference can lead to erroneous diagnoses and by extension, delayed delivery of proper treatment.
According to Beasley, girls tend to hide and mask their behaviour in school. Because of this, even trained staff are not able to immediately identify the symptoms. Girls that they work with are already at the age of 10-11 and a number of these girls are already dealing with depression, anxiety and self-harm. The implementation of guidelines would do them a lot of good.
The implementation of the new guidelines would be a tremendous benefit to those with Autism especially the girls. It allows these children access to proper treatment at an earlier age. In addition, an earlier diagnosis will relieve families of a portion of a burden as they will be able to adapt sooner.
Beasley says that children come home and experience an overload of anxiety and sensory input. Parents, however, at times are able to correctly identify that their children are on the spectrum but also that nobody is listening to the children. Parents of these children are also often unfairly judged. The unpleasant behaviour exhibited by their children are quickly assumed to be due to poor parenting. At present, the guidelines are still undergoing review and are undergoing refinement through consultations with medical practitioners and stakeholders within Australia.
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H/T: ABC News