There is an urgent need for a consistent set of guidelines to support clinicians and caregivers in providing therapy and supports for children on the autism spectrum according to new research published in the journal,The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.

As part of an Autism CRC landmark review, researchers from Griffith University, Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia, Victoria University of Wellington, Healthy Possibilities Adelaide, La Trobe University, University of New South Wales, and Autism Queensland reviewed current guidelines and evidence for children on the autism spectrum.

They found that evidence for the optimal amount of supports a child should receive was limited, and existing recommendations are inconsistent.

“The delivery of child-focused therapy and supports is a key step in the clinical pathway for children on the autism spectrum who often experience barriers to learning and participation in everyday activities,” said Associate Professor David Trembath from Menzies Health Institute Queensland.

“When therapy and supports are provided, they are intended to help children to develop skills, empower their caregivers and lay the foundation for optimal choice, independence, and quality of life into adulthood,’’ he said.

“But there is a lack of consensus about how much support might be optimal for a particular child and family.

“What we have proposed is an evidence-based framework to support clinicians and parents make informed decisions.

“Recommendations should be plausible, practical to deliver, and desired by children and families. They must be individualised and developed with the preferences and characteristics of the child and family in mind.”

The researchers drew on data from the Autism CRC landmark review of 1787 primary studies of more than 111 different intervention practices in formulating the framework.

“This is really the first evidence-based framework for how to select the most appropriate amount of therapy and support for any child, and so is of great importance,” said Professor Andrew Whitehouse from Telethon Kids Institute and The University of Western Australia.

“The framework we propose is an important first step towards the development of a national practice guideline for supporting children on the autism spectrum and their families. Work on such a guideline is now underway, with Autism CRC announcing a project to produce a consensus-based guideline earlier this year.”

“I am pleased to be co-leading this guideline development project, alongside Associate Professor David Trembath.”

The National Practice Guideline is expected to be released in the second half of 2022.

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