New national guidelines for the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders will have no impact on people who are currently supported by the NDIS, the federal government says.

Paul Fletcher
Paul Fletcher

Thirty-one per cent of NDIS participants are on the spectrum, making people with an ASD by far the largest disability group in the scheme.

The guidelines were released in Canberra on Tuesday by the Minister for Families and Social Services Paul Fletcher.

Mr Fletcher said the guidelines, developed by the Autism CRC and funded by the National Disability Insurance Agency with the approval of the NHMRC were about a more uniform approach, not raising the bar for diagnosis.

“It does not change what the NDIS does and indeed it may well be that there are people who today would not be diagnosed who will be diagnosed,” he told the ABC.

“That will be a judgement for clinicians and medical profession and the NDIS will continue to do what it does.”

Autism CRC chief researcher Professor Andrew Whitehouse said guidelines, containing 70 recommendations for optimal assessment and diagnosis, represented the nation’s first move towards a standardised approach to diagnosis.

“Work will now be undertaken to ensure this guideline is adopted and implemented by clinicians and services across Australia who are involved in autism assessment and diagnosis,” he said.

“This will ensure everyone can receive the best evidenced diagnostic practices, regardless of their age or location, and make informed decisions about next steps.”

He also announced the Autism CRC would carry out a trial of a new functional assessment tool for Autism, known as the Computer Adaptive Test.

About 164,000 Australians have a diagnosis of ASD, a 79 per cent increase from 2009.

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

While the guidelines may discourage “diagnosis shopping”, concerns have been raised that they will only jam an already overburdened assessment system.

Mr Fletcher said the guidelines reflected the government’s commitment to a fact-based collaborative approach to autism and the NDIS.

He said “we’ll have to wait and see what the impacts of this are”, including whether there would be a slowing in the rate of diagnosis.

You can download the guidelines here.

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