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Keywords:

  • child development disorder;
  • child health service;
  • diagnosis;
  • pervasive

Aim

The following paper describes the Autism Spectrum Assessment Clinic which operates at Melton Health, a publically funded health service in Melbourne's west.

Methods

A retrospective audit of 234 children assessed between 2007 and 2012 in the Autism Spectrum Assessment Clinic was undertaken. Characteristics of the children assessed (age, sex, locality, referral source) were examined along with characteristics of the clinic (clinicians, assessment outcome).

Results

A detailed description of the model is provided, including evident changes since the clinic began. Data were split between the 2007 to 2009 and 2010 to 2012 time periods to reflect changes in the operation of the clinic. Overall, 48 girls and 186 boys were assessed with a mean age of 71 months; the average waiting time between referral and assessment was 136.6 days. Across the two time periods, the proportion of children receiving a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder increased from 43.1% to 66.3%. Changes are evident in the referral sources between the two time periods, and in the disciplines of clinicians involved in the assessment.

Conclusions

The research illustrates an assessment model, within the Victorian public health context, which currently operates effectively according to best-practice guidelines. This research begins to fill a gap between localised clinical practice and the dissemination of this information to a wider audience, allowing for comparison for other assessment providers. It is hoped that we can contribute more broadly to future assessment processes becoming more consistent, reproducible and equitable for children suspected of having autism spectrum disorders.