I know the delays in the diagnosis of autism can cause unnecessary distress, and as such, I am committed to ensuring that people with autism spectrum disorder lead fulfilling and rewarding lives.
To help standardise and improve the diagnosis and management of autism, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published three clinical guidelines and a quality standard on autism. The guidelines recommend that there should be a maximum of three months between a referral and a first appointment for an assessment for autism. NICE expects these guidelines to be fully observed by commissioners as they design services to meet the needs of their local populations.
Early-years providers must have arrangements in place to identify children with special educational needs, including autism. In addition when a child is aged between two and three, early years practitioners must provide parents with a written summary of their child's development, focusing on communication and language, physical development and personal, social and emotional development.
The reforms to the special educational needs and disabilities system that came into effect in September 2014 have transformed the support available to children and young people with autism, by joining up services across education, health and social care.
The Care Quality Commission and Ofsted are currently undertaking a five year rolling programme of local inspections of how well local areas support people with special educational needs, helping local commissioners to take appropriate action.
Local authorities and clinical commissioning groups should work together to commission services for children with special educational needs, including autism. This should include publishing a 'Local Offer' of services. More widely, the 2014 cross-government autism guidelines for health commissioners encourage the development of autism strategies for meeting the needs of adults with autism in their local population.