Improving access to social care for adults with autism
If there is one thing people with ASD want and need, it is greater awareness. We want people to understand us and to accept us as we are. We do not want cures or medical interventions, just understanding.Adult with autism (7)
Running through recent government publications about autism, and mirrored in our research, is the view that social care staff, among others, do not know enough about autism to identify when someone may have it, or to properly support someone who does. Work is under way to change this.
Many people need to understand autism better: employers, benefits workers, people in the criminal justice system, housing officers and health professionals. People with autism also really need social care to work better for them, so it is vital that staff become more knowledgeable about what autism is, and the needs of people who have it.
Training is key, and should:
- cover how to recognise autism, and how to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate people with autism
- be delivered efficiently - this could mean sharing training between organisations, or including autism in general equalities training, for some staff
- be delivered in detail for those conducting assessments, those working directly with people with autism and the managers of these people (21, 11)
- alter behaviour and practice among key professionals - it isn't enough to attend training but then carry on as before
- include input from people with autism and their families (11)
- cover awareness raising about Asperger's Syndrome and high-functioning autism - the lack of support offered to people with autism of these types (7) means that staff may have less awareness and experience here, so more needs to be done to redress the balance.
Local areas should set out plans for how key staff will be trained. Training must be available to personal assistants, and others working in micro-commissioned support services. Commissioners should insist that good autism training is built into the services they purchase.
One aspect of awareness raising that came up in our research was that of mutual misunderstanding (7). People without autism lack understanding of the condition, but some people with autism find the language and customs of the 'neurotypical'* world perplexing and forbidding, to the extent that they give up trying to access services. While some people with autism have called for training in how to understand the neurotypical world (22), for there to be a meeting of minds, it is up to those who do not have impaired social communication (such as difficulties with empathy or guessing other people's intentions and feelings) - the neurotypical people in society - to make more adjustments (22).
Making these adjustments, and spreading awareness about autism, is vital in making sure that people are directed to the right sources of support - be that a diagnostic service, social services, support groups or a disability employment adviser. If more people know more about autism, support can be targeted more promptly and more effectively (23), with the possibility of better outcomes, and with less battling for services and support on the part of people with autism and their families.
* Neurotypical is used by many people with autism to describe those without the condition.