Arch Dis Child Educ Pract Ed 94:161-168 doi:10.1136/adc.2008.150490
  • Best practice

Autism spectrum disorder: diagnosis and management

  1. Anne O’Hare
  1. Section of Child Life & Health, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Anne O’Hare, Section of Child Life & Health, University of Edinburgh, 20 Sylvan Place, Edinburgh EH9 1UW, UK; aohare{at}
  • Accepted 5 August 2009


Autism spectrum disorders are of high prevalence and have a potentially complex range of presentations within the core impaired domains of social communication, reciprocal social interaction, imaginary thought and restricted and repetitive behaviours. Paediatricians need to recognise the possibility of these conditions among the high-risk populations of children with whom they work. This includes those presenting in the preschool years to child development clinics with delayed acquisition of language or general development delay or those presenting in the school years with coordination, academic, peer interaction and behavioural difficulties. In addition, paediatricians are essential members of the multidisciplinary teams charged with specialist assessment and their clinical history and examination can direct investigations for aetiology. This is a fast moving field with a challenging range of “grey evidence” causes and interventions. The approaches to managing these areas of work are discussed with an emphasis on recognition, important features in the history and clinical examination to aid differential diagnosis and investigations, interpreting the “grey evidence” and understanding intervention and prognosis.


  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.