Healthwatch | March 2018 | Six ways we can improve services for people with autism
Healthwatch have published six recommendations to improve services for individuals with autism; these are based on consultation with people with autism, their families and carers about their experiences of health and care services. Patients with autism may find accessing health and care services problematic and stressful, as new environments and sensory changes can cause anxiety, it is crucial therefore that health professionals have an awareness of individual’s needs and an understanding of how they can make the experience as easy as possible (Healthwatch).
1. There’s a lack of awareness and understanding of autism among some health and care professionals.
Discussion suggested some health professionals, particularly GPs, have a lack of understanding about autism and knowledge about appropriate services to refer them to. Services can help by ensuring their staff are trained to meet the needs of people with autism.
2. Health and care settings aren’t always flexible enough to adapt to their needs.
Health and care settings should provide more flexibility to adapt to autistic people’s needs. For instance, parents who have an autistic child told Healthwatch that GP appointments are often not long enough to meet the needs of people with communication difficulties.
Healthwatch recommend health and care settings should provide more flexibility to adapt to autistic people’s needs.
3. Waiting times for diagnosis can be long.
People have told Healthwatch they can experience long delays in being diagnosed. Delays in diagnosis mean longer waits for treatment and support, especially at school for children.
4. Many people with autism aren’t receiving the support they need.
Healthwatch noted a lack of support while waiting for an assessment, added to the pressure on parents and carers and caused unnecessary stress to people with autism.
In some areas, there’s also a lack of support services for people living with autism, including getting an education and health and care plan, and employment and independent living support.
5. People need more comprehensive and accessible information on the services available.
People with ASD are not always aware of what autism services are available, lack of information can be a barrier to accessing this support.
Parents and carers would also like more information and training about autism and their role as a carer, so they can better meet the needs of the person they are caring for.
6. There is a gap in mental health support for children and young people with autism
Accessing children and young people’s mental health services can be an issue for people with autism.
In some cases, young people have been refused support from mental health services, as they say they cannot meet the needs of patients with autism. This often means services aren’t tailored to people’s specific needs, and they either receive no treatment, or the support they do get isn’t effective.