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Aust Fam Physician. 2011 Sep;40(9):672-7.

Autism spectrum disorders.

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  • 1Discipline of Psychiatry, School of Psychology and Psychiatry, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria.



Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are serious neurodevelopmental disorders affecting approximately one in 160 Australians. Symptoms are apparent during the second year of life causing impairments in social interaction, communication and behaviour with restricted and stereotyped interests.


To increase the general practitioner's awareness of the presenting symptoms of ASDs and their associated problems in children, screening for ASDs, and the assessment process, treatment options and outcomes.


This article discusses the five red flags that are autism alerts in young children. These red flags can enable GPs to play a key surveillance role in determining which young children might require further screening and referral for an ASD assessment. Because ASDs are lifelong, neurodevelopmental disorders and symptoms change over time. Therefore the GP has an ongoing role to support, educate and advise parents, other carers and the individual with an ASD. Treatment and pharmacological interventions are also discussed.

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