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Draft Evidence-based Guideline on Autism Spectrum

Media Release

14 December 2006

Release of New Draft Evidence-based Guideline about Autism Spectrum Disorder

In a ground-breaking first for New Zealand, health, disability and education professionals and social service agencies will now be able to refer to an evidence-based guideline when diagnosing and supporting people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Lester Mundell, the Ministry of Health's Chief Advisor of Disability Services says "Autism Spectrum Disorder is a life-long developmental disability, which can affect communication, social interaction and behaviour. Its form and severity can vary from person to person, and a range of developmental disorders including Asperger Syndrome, is now considered to be part of the autistic spectrum."

"ASD is a complex group of disorders and there have been conflicting claims about the benefits of certain interventions. To date, international guidelines have covered particular groups, for example children, or a particular series of interventions, for example education or medical approaches. The New Zealand Guideline takes a whole of life and a whole of government perspective."

The draft ASD Guideline, released today, is intended to provide guidance on ASD in both children and adults in New Zealand. The guideline will provide people with ASD and those around them up-to-date and reliable evidence for designing and monitoring services and support. It covers identification, diagnosis, ongoing assessment, interventions and services for people with ASD from infancy to adulthood.

Ministry of Education, Team Leader Research in Professional Practice, Joanna Curzon says, "This guideline is in response to many requests from the health and disability sector, people with ASD, their families and whanau, for guidance about interventions that work."

Joanna Curzon says a review by the then Government highlighted gaps in services for people with ASD and made a number of recommendations to improve the quality of services for people with ASD. In response, the Ministries of Health, Education and the Department of Child, Youth and Family formed a cross-government group to tackle the challenges raised by the review.

"It was this group that responded to the requests from people with ASD and their supporters and agreed that an evidence-based guideline was needed. An ASD Guideline Steering Group has helped to guide the development of the ASD Guideline and the Ministries of Health and Education have jointly sponsored and funded the work."

Lester Mundell says there is now a three-month consultation phase to allow the public - service providers from the disability and education sectors, parents, whanau and caregivers - to review the draft Guideline, provide feedback on how useful they find the Guideline and supply any evidence that had been overlooked.

"We welcome the public discussion and feedback on this, and we're confident that this will help ensure that the final ASD Guideline is accurate, relevant and useful to everyone who supports people with ASD."

At the same time as the public consultation is taking place, international experts in ASD are peer-reviewing the draft ASD Guideline and an impact analysis is being conducted, commissioned by the Ministries of Health and Education. The results from all three activities will feed into an implementation plan.

“We are determined that the ASD Guideline will lead to improved life outcomes for people with ASD and those around them.

The draft ASD Guideline is on the Ministry of Health's website - www.moh.govt.nz/autismspectrumdisorder


ENDS

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