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Systemic-attachment formulation for families of children with autism

Mark Hudson (Sheffield Children's Hospital, Sheffield, UK)
Rudi Dallos (University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK)
Rebecca McKenzie (University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK)

Advances in Autism

ISSN: 2056-3868

Article publication date: 3 July 2017




Case formulation has gained increasing prominence as a guide to intervention across a range of clinical problems. It offers a contrasting orientation to diagnosis and its value is considered in the context of clinical work with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD). The purpose of this paper is to argue that case formulation integrating attachment, systemic and narrative perspectives offers a valuable way forward in assisting people with the diagnosis and their families.


The literature on ASD and related conditions is reviewed to examine levels of co-morbidity, consider the role of parental mental health difficulties and explore the issues inherent with current approaches to diagnosis.


ASD is found to have a high level of co-morbidity with other difficulties, such as anxiety and insecure attachment. Research findings, alongside the authors own clinical experience, are developed to suggest that formulation can allow the possibility of early intervention based on a holistic appraisal of the array of difficulties present prior to a diagnosis.


It is argued that the use of this systemic-attachment formulation approach could offset the exacerbation in ASD and related conditions, and deterioration in families’ mental health, whilst they face long waiting times for a diagnosis.



Hudson, M., Dallos, R. and McKenzie, R. (2017), "Systemic-attachment formulation for families of children with autism", Advances in Autism, Vol. 3 No. 3, pp. 142-153.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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