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NICE: Autism guidance unveiled

People with autism should not be prescribed medication for the core features of the condition, new standards from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) claim.

According to NICE, the provision of services for people with autism varies widely across England. 

In researching the latest standards for the treatment of autism, NICE found that drug treatments are “ineffective” at treating the core features of autism, while also carrying significant potential risks. 

The new standards claim that psychosocial intervention would be more beneficial to people with autism. 

Provision of services for people with autism vary widely across England, NICE has stated. The new standards aim to improve the care and management of autism. 

The term autism describes differences and impairments in social interaction and communication, combined with restricted interests and repetitive behaviours, often with a lifelong impact. 

Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning the symptoms can vary form person to person, ranging from mild to severe. 

It is common for people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) to have symptoms or aspects of other conditions such as: 

- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

- Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety 

- Comorbid medical problems, such as gastrointestinal disorders and epilepsy 

- Dyspraxia (developmental co-ordination disorder) 

'Fulfilling lives'

In England one in every 100 people has an ASD, and the condition is more common in men than in women. 

The new standards also call for autism assessment to be carried out within three months of referral. 

Jonathan Green, professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Manchester and Manchester Academic Health Sciences Centre, and member of the committee which developed the standards said: “Across England, there is real variation in the type and quality of care people with autism receive, which can have lasting effects on both the person and their families/carers. 

“It is important, therefore, that there are clear standards in place - based on the best available evidence and expert consensus - which specifically focus on key areas needing improvement.” 

Mark Lever, chief executive of The National Autistic Society, said: “With the right support at the right time, people with autism can live rewarding and fulfilling lives which is why we campaigned hard to secure this Quality Standard. 

“The first step to getting the right support is having timely access to diagnosis so speeding up the process will have a significant impact on the lives of thousands of people with autism in England, many of whom have waited or are waiting, to obtain this critical milestone.” 

The quality standard is available to view on the NICE website