Social care workers and autism
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. The ‘Think autism’ guidance sets out to ensure that better understanding and awareness is put in place for social care services.
Working with people with autism: the professionals
As long as they realise that in a way it’s like teaching someone who’s blind to see, or someone who’s deaf to hear. There has to be real understanding that our brains are differently designed so we really can’t spot body language fast enough, etc.(Autistic adult)
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.(Autistic adult)
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 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.
- cover how to recognise autism and its diversity, and how to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate people with autism
- be delivered efficiently – e.g. sharing training between organisations, or including autism in general equalities training
- be delivered in detail for those conducting assessments, those working directly with people with autism, and the managers of these people [16, 19, 20]
- alter behaviour and practice among key professionals – it isn’t enough to attend training but then carry on as before
- be ongoing, as thinking about autism continue to develop
- include input from people with autism and their families [4, 21]
- cover awareness-raising about Asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism – the lack of support offered to people with autism of these types means that staff may have less awareness and experience.[11, 13]
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, and regularly updated. One aspect of awareness-raising is that of ‘mutual misunderstanding’.  People without autism can lack understanding of the condition which can make communication hard, but people with autism can find the language and customs of the neurotypical world perplexing and anxiety-provoking, 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, for there to be a meeting of minds, it is up to those who do not have impaired social communication to make more adjustments.
Making these adjustments, and spreading awareness about autism, is vital in ensuring that people are directed to the right sources of support.