Children must now be in crisis before they can be referred for an autism diagnosis, parents claim.
The strict new eligibility criteria in the Bristol region comes after a 350% rise in the number waiting more than two years for assessment.
Changes made by the NHS mean children will only be referred with "severe and enduring" mental health issues.
The Integrated Care Board (ICB) said it meant resources could now focus on those with "the highest clinical need".
Some parents have launched the campaign Assess for Autism in protest against the rule change.
An Assess for Autism spokesperson said children would now have to be at crisis point before being referred, describing the policy as "deeply concerning" and "regressive".
However, healthcare provider Sirona, which provides autism diagnosis services, and the Integrated Care Board (ICB), which formally approved the new policy, insist it is necessary because families are waiting too long.
They said resources can now be focused on those with the "highest clinical need or are the most vulnerable".
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Source: BBC News, 22 March 2023