For the first time in 15 years, a major psychiatric organization is updating its practice guidelines for treating kids and adolescents with autism.

A series of seven recommendations from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry outline the responsibilities clinicians have in diagnosing and treating those on the spectrum.

The guidance published this month in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry is an update to recommendations first presented by the group in 1999. It offers clinicians a roadmap for the best assessment and treatment practices for autism, though doctors must also take into account each patient’s unique circumstances in developing a plan, the organization said.

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Under the recommendations, clinicians are being urged to take a multidisciplinary approach, coordinating a full physical exam and genetic workup on those diagnosed with autism.

Physicians should help families obtain appropriate educational, behavioral, communication and medical treatments for their child, the guidance indicates. What’s more, they should take an active role in long-term planning and provide support to parents and siblings.

The association is urging clinicians to ask families about any use of alternative or complementary treatments and to discuss the pros and cons of these approaches. Meanwhile, the recommendations indicate that medications should be used judiciously to address specific symptoms or to treat co-existing conditions.

The guidelines are based on a review of nearly 10,000 autism studies published between 1991 and 2013.

“This practice parameter raises the standards of care because it includes the most up-to-date information about how to assess and manage children with autism spectrum disorder,” said Matthew Siegel who helped develop the new guidelines and works as director of the developmental disorders program at Spring Harbor Hospital in Westbrook, Maine.

Though the recommendations are focused on kids through age 17, they may also have relevance for adults on the spectrum, the psychiatrists’ group said.

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