Experiences of diagnosing autism spectrum disorder: a survey of professionals in the United Kingdom

Rogers, CL; Goddard, Lorna; Hill, Elisabeth L.; Henry, Lucy and Crane, Laura. 2015. Experiences of diagnosing autism spectrum disorder: a survey of professionals in the United Kingdom. Autism: International Journal of Research and Practice, 20(7), pp. 820-831. ISSN 1362-3613 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

To date, research exploring experiences of diagnosing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has largely focused on parental perspectives. In order to obtain a more complete account of the ASD diagnostic process, it is essential that the views and experiences of professionals are heard. In the current study, 116 multidisciplinary professionals involved in diagnosing ASD in the United Kingdom completed an online questionnaire exploring their experiences and opinions of three key areas of service: accessibility; the diagnostic process; and post-diagnostic support. Although professionals were largely satisfied with service accessibility, around 40% of services were failing to provide timely assessments. Standardised diagnostic tools were perceived as helpful and were used consistently, but concerns were raised about their validity in detecting atypical ASD presentations (e.g., females). Several challenges regarding giving ASD diagnoses were reported; these included making sure caregivers understood the diagnosis, pitching information at the correct level, and managing distress. Further, the practice of ‘upgrading’ to a diagnosis of ASD in uncertain or complex cases was reported by many, albeit infrequently, and reasons for this varied widely. Professionals expressed dissatisfaction with post-diagnostic provision, especially onward and long-term support options. They also felt that service improvements were required across populations and across the three key areas of service.

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This work was funded by a Small Grant from the British Academy (SG112070).


autism spectrum disorders; diagnosis; health services; professional development

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25 March 2015Accepted
16 December 2015Published

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Date Deposited:

20 Oct 2015 16:49

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:12

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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