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30-11-2017 | Original Paper | Uitgave 5/2018 Open Access

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 5/2018

Improving Efficiency and Quality of the Children’s ASD Diagnostic Pathway: Lessons Learned from Practice

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders > Uitgave 5/2018
Marion Rutherford, Morag Burns, Duncan Gray, Lynne Bremner, Sarah Clegg, Lucy Russell, Charlie Smith, Anne O’Hare


The ‘autism diagnosis crisis’ and long waiting times for assessment are as yet unresolved, leading to undue stress and limiting access to effective support. There is therefore a significant need for evidence to support practitioners in the development of efficient services, delivering acceptable waiting times and effectively meeting guideline standards. This study reports statistically significant reductions in waiting times for autism diagnostic assessment following a children’s health service improvement programme. The average wait between referral and first appointment reduced from 14.2 to 10.4 weeks (t(21) = 4.3, p < 0.05) and between referral and diagnosis shared, reduced from 270 to 122.5 days, (t(20) = 5.5, p < 0.05). The proportion of girls identified increased from 5.6 to 2.7:1. Methods reported include: local improvement action planning; evidence based pathways; systematic clinical data gathering and a training plan. This is a highly significant finding for many health services wrestling with the challenges of demand and capacity for autism diagnosis and assessment.

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