Improving the pathway for the diagnosis of autism in children (Connected Bradford)

Background: Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder (present from birth) that leads to impaired reciprocal social interaction, communication and stereotyped behaviour.  The impact of this condition is profound but children with autism often wait many years before they are referred to a clinic that can diagnose the condition.  This is often despite considerable family contact with different parts of the health service, and the child struggling within the school environment.  Health professionals and teachers commonly lack the knowledge or confidence to suggest referral for assessment, and thus the pathway through the health service to get a diagnosis is often long and frustrating. 

The connection of routine health data with routine education data provides a potential way to understand and ultimately improve the pathway to autism clinic referral.  This is of huge importance to families of children with the condition because there is considerable evidence that earlier diagnosis is associated with better outcomes.  Moreover, early diagnosis will reduce the pressures placed on schools by children with undiagnosed autism, as well as lessening the burden on other clinics and limiting the need for the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services to deal with the difficulties created when a child is diagnosed at an older age.

Aims: To use linked, routine electronic health and education data to improve the pathway to diagnostic assessment for autism among children with in Bradford

Progress: Pilot project underway to use routine educational data as a first stage in screening for autism by primary school teachers (using routine data to improve the pathway to autism assessment).




  1. To quantify, map and model the current patient pathways through the health service leading to referral for autism assessment.
  1. To look for associations between early years foundation stage assessment profile (a universal measure taken on all children at the point of school entry) and the diagnosis of autism as coded in routine health records (linking routine education and health data).