We need your help in removing barriers to who can assess and diagnose autism. AAPi has drafted our organisational response to the Draft Updated Guideline for the Assessment and Diagnosis of Autism by the Autism CRC. The opportunity to provide feedback closes at 4pm AEST on Monday, 29 May 2023.
While AAPi and representative members have played an extensive role in the consultation process, the current draft guidelines still limit psychologists' ability to assess and diagnose autism based on a limited number of endorsement areas. In order to change this, we need every single member to take action today. With overwhelming community engagement, we can create change, as we did with our successful campaign with the Disability Support Pension.
All psychologists who have additional professional development, relevant experience and supervision should be able to provide Lead Practitioner Diagnostic Evaluation, yet the draft guidelines restrict this to only psychologists with endorsement in clinical, educational/developmental, or clinical neuropsychology. Endorsement is not an appropriate metric to decide who can provide Lead Practitioner Diagnostic Evaluation, nor does it guarantee clinicians are qualified or appropriate to do this assessment. Contemporary training in autism assessment and diagnosis is largely conducted outside of the formal education of psychologists. Many psychologists working in this area are highly experienced and skilled but do not have an endorsement. We have concerns that this recommendation will continue to restrict diagnosis, early intervention, and access to supports. We have urged the Autism CRC again in our submission to change this section of the guideline to - Psychologist who holds general registration with the Psychology Board of Australia and remove reference to endorsement.
It is vital that Autism CRC receive feedback about how the guidelines may impact those wishing to pursue assessment for autism and the practitioners that work with them.
We are asking members to provide feedback regarding this guideline to the Autism CRC through this link.
You will find the guidelines here to download and can provide feedback by clicking on the “Give Feedback” button located halfway down the page. You can provide feedback as an individual or as an organisation. The quickest option is to choose to provide feedback as an individual and choose to give feedback on the five overarching sections rather than all 66 recommendations. For ease of providing feedback, we have provided summaries of our feedback in all five sections. You can choose to copy and paste this into your submission or alter it to provide personalised feedback based on your experience. Be aware there are strict word limits.
Feedback on Key Section: Guiding Principles
Recommendation 9 - Practitioners involved in assessment and diagnosis should have appropriate qualifications. However, restrictions based on area of practice endorsement is highly problematic and contrary to the regulatory guidelines for psychologists.
Recommendation 10 - restricting diagnosis by psychologists significantly harms access to affordable and timely diagnostic services, particularly for rural and remote regions of Australia and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
I urge Autism CRC to change the guidelines to include all psychologists with general registration.
Feedback on Key Section: Foundations of Assessment
I direct the Autism CRC to the defined scope of practice of all psychologists. The assessment of autism is appropriate to be performed by all psychologists who have sufficient professional development, supervision and experience in this area and should not be restricted to psychologists with the specified endorsements. All reference to this within the Lead Practitioner definitions should be removed to ensure this guide is in line with the National Law regulating psychologists in Australia and the Psychology Board Registration Standard.
Feedback on Key Section: Making a Referral for Assessment
The recommendations are appropriate. I urge the consideration of government funding to be provided to support the cost of assessment for adults, as is provided for those under 26 years of age.
Feedback on Key Section: Comprehensive Needs Assessment
I wish to raise the issue that tying support funding to the diagnostic level within the NDIS, for example, is extremely problematic. I would also like to reinforce that all psychologists are able to provide “level of support need” determinations. Some agencies state that a psychologist must be a clinical psychologist to provide a determination of the level of support, use this as a descriptor of what “type of autism” an individual has, utilise this level as a funding determination, or request full reassessment by a clinical psychologist to determine level. All these practices are inappropriate and out of line with the intended purpose of the DSM-5-TR. We would like this addressed in the guidelines so that it is clear that all psychologists can determine level of support needs.
Feedback on Key Section: Diagnostic Evaluation
Recommendation 55.2 is completely inappropriate. All psychologists who have additional professional development, relevant experience and supervision can provide Lead Practitioner Diagnostic Evaluation. I have significant concerns that this recommendation will continue to restrict diagnosis, early intervention, and access to supports. I urge Autism CRC to change this recommendation to include any psychologist who holds general registration and remove reference to endorsement.