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Diagnostic practice and its impacts on parental health and child behaviour problems in autism spectrum disorders


Obtaining a diagnosis is a key point in developing a treatment plan for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), but little attention has been paid to the impacts of diagnostic practices on families, and the consequent impact on child outcomes. Parents’ experiences during ASD diagnosis for their child can be stressful, and such stress can lead to parental ill health, child-behaviour problems, and poorer child outcomes following treatment. Thus, the conduct of diagnosis may be of particular importance for subsequent child outcomes and parental health. A lack of knowledge regarding best diagnostic practice may ultimately impair treatment efficacy and lead to increased health- and economic-burdens. Given this, the current article examines recent work concerning: parental experiences of ASD diagnoses; general health and psychological functioning of parents of newly-diagnosed children with ASD; aspects of the diagnostic process impacting on parental functioning; and the relationship of parental functioning to child outcomes. These are placed into the context of diagnostic best practice for ASD, and understanding the complex relationship between ASD and family variables.

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