Environmental scan of Canadian and UK policies for autism spectrum disorder diagnostic assessment [2018]

Many jurisdictions across Canada and internationally are grappling with providing diagnostic and intervention services for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The objective was to compare Canadian and United Kingdom (UK) policies governing ASD diagnosis.

The policy scan extended from January 2000 to December 2017. Canadian federal, provincial/territorial, and UK government publications related to ASD diagnosis were retrieved from official websites by searching for ASD and related terms. Retrieved documents were filtered for relevance, with all relevant documents undergoing full text review. Data extracted included personnel and testing requirements for diagnosis, wait times, and eligibility for ASD services and funding.

The included jurisdictions varied substantially in their approach to ASD diagnosis and eligibility for intervention. Nine of the 13 provinces/territories restrict which clinicians can diagnose ASD by requiring certain documentation for service eligibility. Three provinces require multi-disciplinary team assessment (British Columbia [BC], Quebec, and Nova Scotia [NS]). Three provinces (BC, NS, and Prince Edward Island [PEI]) require specific diagnostic tests for diagnosis. Only two provinces, BC and NS, have target wait times for assessment. Jurisdictions differed in whether they allowed children with a provisional diagnosis of ASD to access services. At a national level, the UK provides more clinical guidance for ASD diagnosis, which can be attributed to its centralized system of national healthcare delivery.

ASD diagnostic assessment policies vary across Canada, and between Canada and the UK. Further evidence supporting ASD diagnostic practices is needed to streamline the journey from identification to intervention.

Melanie Penner, MD MSc FRCP(C), Evdokia Anagnostou, MD, Lana Y Andoni, MSc, Wendy J Ungar, MSc PhD
Paediatrics & Child Health, Volume 24, Issue 3, June 2019