Barriers, facilitators, and experiences of the autism assessment process: a systematic review of qualitative research with health professionals

Abby E. Howes, Maya E. Burns, Andrew D.R. Surtees*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Experiences of professionals diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have been significantly under-researched. Around 1%–2% of children in developed countries receive a diagnosis of ASD. Early diagnosis is crucial as delayed diagnosis risks missing the opportunity to receive early interventions which can improve developmental outcomes and quality of life. The purpose of this article was to identify systematically and summarize the experiences and perceptions of health professionals who diagnose ASD. Seven articles were identified, through a systematic search of four databases and the reference lists of identified articles. The articles were critically appraised, and their results were summarized. All articles scored well on the risk of bias assessment. The articles included research from the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Belgium. Themes from articles were considered under five topics: barriers, facilitators, diagnostic process, informing of a diagnosis, and postdiagnosis. Clinical implications emphasize the need for clear guidelines, multidisciplinary teams, and a clear process for providing information on the diagnosis and relevant services to parents. Training implications highlight the need to train health professionals on how diagnostic tools and professional judgments can be integrated. Training should also help make professionals aware of the barriers that they may face when diagnosing ASD. Future research is needed to increase the literature on professionals’ experiences of diagnosing ASD and focus on the impact this can have on the health professionals themselves.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-460
Number of pages12
JournalProfessional Psychology: Research and Practice
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2021


  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • diagnosis
  • professional
  • qualitative research
  • systematic literature review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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