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Keywords:

  • Autistic disorder;
  • diagnosis;
  • school children;
  • evaluation

Background

National guidelines stress the importance of early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This pilot investigated the feasibility and acceptability of assessing children in their community.

Method

The pilot study was carried out from August 2007 to January 2009, and the roll-out of the programme started in 2010 and is currently underway. Workers undertook assessments and made a group decision about diagnosis; participant observation of these team meetings explored the decision-making process. Semistructured interviews and focus groups explored the views of parents and professionals.

Results

Seventeen children took part in the study: six were diagnosed with ASD; three as not ASD, and eight were referred for further assessment. The model was found acceptable to parents and workers.

Conclusions

With detailed consideration of administration, information, communication and training requirements, this approach has the potential to increase early diagnosis of ASD and reduce demand for specialist assessment.