University develops new resource to improve diagnoses of autism, ADHD and other neurodevelopmental differences in children

By Press Office

A team of health experts has developed a new resource which will help improve the assessment and diagnosis of children who may have autism and other neurodevelopmental differences.

The team from Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh has launched a new practical resource which will be invaluable to those involved in the diagnostic assessment of Autism, ADHD, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Intellectual Disability, Developmental Language Disorder and Developmental Co-ordination Disorder.

It is believed that the new Framework will be welcomed by teachers, psychologists, psychiatrists, paediatricians, nurses, speech and language therapists and occupational therapists who may be involved in working with, and diagnosing, children and young people with neurodevelopmental differences.

This practical resource has been developed by the Scottish Government funded National Autism Implementation Team (NAIT) which is based at Queen Margaret University. The academic team is confident that the Framework will go a long way to supporting practitioners in local health boards to more easily diagnose children who are experiencing neurodevelopmental differences, and to implement a local neurodevelopmental pathway to improve learning outcomes for children and young people.

Dr Marion Rutherford, part of the National Autism Implementation Team at Queen Margaret University, said: “Although support should not be dependent on diagnosis, we know that many young people and adults waiting for a diagnosis can experience challenges with participation in life at home, school and work and difficulty understanding their own differences. Without a clear diagnosis, people may not understand why they have had these experiences in life and how to work around differences, to make life and learning a bit easier. Having the right diagnosis and support can make a significant difference in improving people’s quality of life and in their future opportunities. This new resource should also help with earlier diagnosis, with the result that individuals and their families should be able to benefit from helpful information, peer support, support from services and adaptations to meet their needs at an earlier stage than they might have in the past.”

Dr Rutherford continued: “The Scottish Government is committed to improving access to assessment, diagnosis and support for individuals with neurodevelopmental differences across the lifespan. We know that waiting times for diagnostic assessment have been significantly impacted by the pandemic. So we are pleased to be launching this new resource at such a critical time and supporting the government in its ambition to improve health outcomes for children and adults.”

The Scottish model, which the team developed, is based on research they carried out with children, young people and their families who have lived experience of conditions such as autism and other neurodevelopmental differences. They also drew upon literature evidence, clinical guidelines and consultation with expert practitioners and researchers in the field including autistic people.

Although not designed for adult neurodevelopmental services, the team believes the new resource has the potential to assist practitioners in adult services working with and diagnosing autistic individuals and those with other neurodevelopmental differences.

Professor Fiona Coutts, Dean of the School of Health Sciences at Queen Margaret University, said: “The University is focused on carrying out research which informs policy and practice and makes a real difference to everyday life. This work carried out by the National Autism Implementation Team is a great example of how we translate research evidence into practice, which ultimately assists the government in delivery on its health commitments.”

Notes to Editor

The National Children's Neurodevelopmental Pathway – Practice Framework is a resource for practitioners involved in diagnostic assessment of autism and other neurodevelopmental conditions, which commonly co-occur (e.g. ADHD, fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Intellectual Disability, Developmental Language Disorder and Developmental Coordination Disorder).

The National Autism Implementation Team (NAIT) at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh is made up of professionals from Education, Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Psychiatry, who have considerable experience and expertise in working with autistic individuals of all ages, their families and others who support them. NAIT provide practitioner to practitioner advice.

This cross sector partnership aims to support the delivery of the Scottish Strategy for Autism: Outcomes and Priorities 2018-2021, through facilitating evidence based actions in the areas of:

- Education and Inclusive Practice
- Assessment and Diagnosis for children, young people and adults
- Employment

Find out more about the National Autism Implementation Team.

For more media information contact Lynne Russell, Communications Manager at Queen Margaret University on E:, M: 07711 011239.

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