Improving the Journey Before, During and After Diagnosis of a Neurodevelopmental Condition: Suggestions from a Sample of Australian Consumers and Professionals

Kiah Evans, Bahareh Afsharnejad, Amy Finlay-Jones, Jenny Downs, Elissa Strumpher, Jacinta Freeman, John Wray, Andrew J. O. Whitehouse, Narelle Mullan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives The current study used a transdiagnostic approach to explore experiences of consumers and professionals on how the process of assessing and diagnosing neurodevelopmental conditions can be improved.

Methods Individuals with personal and/or professional experience of this clinical pathway were invited to complete an online survey. A convenience sample of 117 Australian participants provided qualitative data describing how to improve this clinical pathway, including 71 consumers and 53 professionals (seven participants held both roles). Descriptive statistics were used to summarize the characteristics of the participants and two researchers analyzed the qualitative responses using a template approach.

Results Participants described a five-stage "journey" spanning before, during and after diagnosis of a neurodevelopmental condition. They progressed through "searching" for an explanation, "waiting" for the diagnostic evaluation, "investigating" the signs and symptoms, "knowing" that their child has a neurodevelopmental condition and "accessing" support. Participants also suggested nine key improvements to this process that were named "awareness" through professional training and empathy, "clearer pathways" through professional checklists and plans, "acceptable timeframes" through reduced local waitlists, "more holistic" through assessment and supports, "more collaboration" through communication with key parties, "stability and consistency" through continuous and coordinated services, "generic community programs" through early needs-based support, "understanding" through meaningful diagnostic disclosure and "addressing their needs" through further targeted supports.

Conclusions The findings from this study provide a foundation for future work to improve the diagnostic journey for neurodevelopmental conditions through a collaborative effort between consumers, professionals, researchers and policy makers. These findings highlight the importance of a transdiagnostic and comprehensive clinical pathway that spans the entire journey, where supports are readily available to consumers before, during and after diagnosis. Further research is required to explore the experience of consumers and professionals from more diverse backgrounds, as a limitation of this study was that almost all participants were females and very few identified as belonging to a specific cultural group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397-406
Number of pages10
JournalAdvances in Neurodevelopmental Disorders
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


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