Updated CPG: Autism and developmental disability: Management of distress/agitation

The Autism and developmental disability: Management of distress/agitation CPG has been updated and reviewed by the CPG committee, and endorsed by the Paediatric Improvement Collaborative (July 2022). This CPG provides new key points and treatment approaches for management of acute distress in children with Autism and developmental disability in the health setting. 

It has been updated with key points, and a new flowchart outlining principles of management including environmental modification, adequate planning, and psychotropic medication options. Further detail on medications can be found in the acute behavioural disturbance CPG. 

The key points for the CPG are 

  1. The parents, carers and/or child should be able to advise on what techniques have previously worked well to minimise distress 
  2. Maintain a low stimulus environment wherever possible 
  3. Assume the child with acute distress may have an underlying medical issue, until proven otherwise. Repeated examinations may be required 
  4. Avoid unnecessary distress through repeated interventions (eg venepuncture) and plan thoroughly ensuring all investigations are performed together  
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