This guideline covers recognising and diagnosing autism spectrum disorder in children and young people from birth up to 19 years. It also covers referral. It aims to improve the experience of children, young people and those who care for them.

In December 2017, we reviewed the evidence and added ADHD as a factor associated with an increased prevalence of autism and changed references from DSM-4 to DSM-5.

This guideline should be used alongside our guidelines on autism spectrum disorder in under 19s: support and management and autism spectrum disorder in adults: diagnosis and management.


This guideline includes recommendations on:

Who is it for?

  • Healthcare professionals
  • Autistic children and young people, children and young people who may be autistic, and their families and carers

Is this guideline up to date?

We checked this guideline in June 2021 and found no new evidence that affects the recommendations. We are monitoring important initiatives in progress that may affect future service delivery. We will regularly review their potential impact on our autism guidelines.

Guideline development process

How we develop NICE guidelines

This guideline was previously called autism diagnosis in children and young people: recognition, referral and diagnosis of children and young people on the autism spectrum.

Your responsibility

The recommendations in this guideline represent the view of NICE, arrived at after careful consideration of the evidence available. When exercising their judgement, professionals and practitioners are expected to take this guideline fully into account, alongside the individual needs, preferences and values of their patients or the people using their service. It is not mandatory to apply the recommendations, and the guideline does not override the responsibility to make decisions appropriate to the circumstances of the individual, in consultation with them and their families and carers or guardian.

All problems (adverse events) related to a medicine or medical device used for treatment or in a procedure should be reported to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency using the Yellow Card Scheme.

Local commissioners and providers of healthcare have a responsibility to enable the guideline to be applied when individual professionals and people using services wish to use it. They should do so in the context of local and national priorities for funding and developing services, and in light of their duties to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, to advance equality of opportunity and to reduce health inequalities. Nothing in this guideline should be interpreted in a way that would be inconsistent with complying with those duties.

Commissioners and providers have a responsibility to promote an environmentally sustainable health and care system and should assess and reduce the environmental impact of implementing NICE recommendations wherever possible.