Letter: Diagnosing autism in adults is no easy task

Professor Terry Brugha is right to highlight the crucial role GPs should play in identifying and referring adults with autism, ensuring they get the diagnosis, healthcare and support they need (GP, 29 January).

Sadly, we know that a lack of understanding of autism among GPs, psychologists and psychiatrists means many adults with the condition endure a long and difficult journey to a diagnosis.

Around 80 per cent of GPs told the National Audit Office they need additional guidance and training to manage patients with autism more effectively.

Consequently, the National Autistic Society (NAS) has been campaigning for mandatory training for GPs to be included in the government's forthcoming adult autism strategy.

Autism is a complex 'spectrum' condition which affects people in different ways. Therefore, it can be difficult for health professionals to recognise.

Some people with autism present as verbally articulate, and some of the behaviours associated with the condition, such as obsessions and the need for routine, can be interpreted as a mental health disorder.

And without an understanding of autism, medical professionals may offer unhelpful and dangerous interventions, which can increase the impact of autism on the individual.

The right support at the right time can make an enormous difference to individuals and families living with the condition.

For more information, visit autism.org.uk/GP.

  • Dr Judith Gould, clinical director NAS Lorna Wing Centre for Autism, Bromley, Kent.

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