New standards for autism support unveiled

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New standards to improve the quality of care and support for people with autism have been outlined by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).


Current provision for autistic children, young people and adults is ‘varied’ across England and in need of standardisation and improvement, NICE said.

The standards, which are based on four NICE accredited clinical guidelines published over the last three years, comprise three main recommendations:

  • People with possible autism who are referred to autism specialists should receive a diagnostic assessment within three months.
  • Medicating the core features of autism should be avoided as it has been shown to be ineffective and to carry significant risks.
  • People with autism who display challenging behaviour should be assessed for possible triggers relating to their social or physical environment.


Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE said that the standards would help professionals to deliver ‘the very best care and support for both adults and children with the condition.’

Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society, welcomed the speeding up of the referral process.

‘The first step to getting the right support is having timely access to diagnosis, so speeding up the process will have a significant impact on the lives of thousands of people with autism in England, many of whom have waited or are waiting to obtain this critical milestone,’ he said.

He added that the quality standard would help people with autism to have more of their needs addressed when professionals are designing support and services.

‘With the right support at the right time, people with autism can live rewarding and fulfilling lives,’ he said.

In England it is estimated that one in 100 people suffer from an autistic spectrum disorder, which can impair social interaction and communication. While there is no cure, a range of interventions and treatments, including methods of enabling learning and development, can help improve symptoms.

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