Graduate Students Find Error in Autism Diagnosis Tool That Prevented Many People From Being Diagnosed



Normally when there is a suspicion of autism, a diagnosis team is sought out. One of the first tools to see if the person in question is in fact autistic and to move forward are screeners. These screeners come in the form of checklists and questionnaires.

One of the screeners is called the Autism Quotient - 10 (AQ-10). This screener is made by the National Institute of Care Excellence (NICE). They create a variety of these screening tools. 

The AQ-10 is over 10 years old and has been used often by professionals from around the world. It is a 10 item questionnaire. Earlier this year, two graduate students discovered a fatal error in its scoring guidelines set out by NICE. 

Two psychology graduate student at University of Bath made this critical discovery. These students are Lucy Waldren and Rachel Clutterbuck. They were both studying under their professor Punit Shah.  

This error was that if the screener score was under 6 points, that person would be referred for diagnosis. The error was that it was supposed to include 6. So scores 1-6 were to be referred. This seems like a small error but many people were denied diagnosis due to this error. 

On June 14, 2021, NICE made the announcement that they would correct this error. We were concerned that the guidelines weren’t going to be changed,” Professor Shah said. “We were consequently really pleased to see that NICE have taken the issue seriously and have dealt with it so promptly.”

The paper on this critical error written by the graduate students was published in the Lancet Psychiatry in April. Their paper was called “Erroneous  NICE Guidelines on Autism Screening.”

I know many autistics, myself included, want to thank you for finding this error and for your hard work. Because of your discovery, more autistics will get their diagnosis and will not go their whole lifetime without being diagnosed. They made autistic history. 

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