Feature Article

Autism spectrum disorder in general practice

ALICIA MONTGOMERY, TERENCE YOONG, Valsamma Eapen

Figures

© juanmonino/istockphoto.com model used for illustrative purposes only
© juanmonino/istockphoto.com model used for illustrative purposes only

Abstract

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a chronic condition typically diagnosed in early childhood. A multidisciplinary approach to management and an evolving treatment plan are essential for successful long-term patient outcomes. Early diagnosis, referral and intervention are key to management of children with ASD and GPs play an important role in co-ordinating care across their lifespan.

Key Points

  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterised by deficits in social communication and the presence of restricted, repetitive or stereotyped behaviours.
  • Presentations are diverse.
  • Comorbidities are common and occur in over 70% of children with ASD.
  • Early referral to a paediatric specialist for diagnosis is important, but diagnostic assessment need not delay commencement of intervention.
  • GPs can facilitate referral of children with ASD to specialists and allied health professionals for early interventions including speech and occupational therapists, psychologists and audiologists.
  • Medications may play a role in managing comorbid psychiatric and medical issues.
  • GPs have an important role in early identification, ongoing management and care co-ordination of children with ASD, and are uniquely placed to monitor the wellbeing of carers.
  • Referral to the local National Disability Insurance Scheme Early Childhood Early Intervention partner should be made for every child under 7 years of age who presents with developmental concerns, and can be made before specialist diagnostic assessment.

Figures

© juanmonino/istockphoto.com model used for illustrative purposes only
© juanmonino/istockphoto.com model used for illustrative purposes only