Awareness of adult autism - question & answers

In line with our feature raising awarness of adult autism, below are some useful questions and answers about the topic.

What is autism?

Autism is a lifelong condition that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to other people. It also affects how a person makes sense of the world around them.

What is the Autism Act? 

The Autism Act (2009) signalled a new commitment across government to transforming the way public services support adults with autism.

What is the autism strategy? 

The autism strategy represents a shared approach creating a society that not only accepts and understands autism, but also provides real opportunities for adults with autism to live fulfilling and rewarding lives.

The strategy focuses on five core areas of activity:

  • increasing awareness and understanding of autism among frontline professionals;
  • developing a clear, consistent pathway for diagnosis in every area, which is followed by the offer of a personalised needs assessment;
  • improving access to the services and support which adults with autism need to live independently within the community;
  • helping adults with autism into work, and;
  • enabling local partners to plan and develop appropriate services for adults with autism to meet identified needs and priorities.

What is the statutory guidance? 

On 17 December 2010, the Government published statutory guidance for local councils and NHS organisations to support implementation of the autism strategy. The purpose of the guidance is to secure the implementation of Fulfilling and Rewarding Lives: The strategy for adults with autism in England by giving guidance to local authorities, NHS bodies and NHS Foundation Trusts around training of staff, the diagnosis of autism and the leadership and planning of services.

This guidance will help these bodies to develop services that support and meet the locally identified needs of people with autism, their families and carers.

The guidance is structured around four key areas:

  • training of staff who provide services to adults with autism;
  • identification and diagnosis of autism in adults, leading to assessment of needs for relevant services;
  • planning in relation to the provision of services to people with autism as they move from being children to adults, and;
  • local planning and leadership in relation to the provision of services for adults with autism

Fulfilling and Rewarding Lives makes it clear that the most fundamental step towards improving services for adults with autism is to increase awareness and understanding of autism across all public services. Increased awareness and understanding of autism will provide the foundations for the broader changes sought to the way services are provided, planned and delivered.

Improving training around autism, and increasing its availability, is therefore at the heart of the strategy for all public service staff. This guidance focuses on what this means for local authorities and NHS bodies, while recognising that the forthcoming changes to the NHS will affect the way training is delivered for the NHS workforce.

The guidance covers two distinct areas:

  • general autism awareness training, which should ultimately be available for everyone working in health and social care, and;
  • specialised training for staff working in key roles – such as GPs, those responsible for conducting community care assessments, and those in leadership roles locally.

What are we doing?

In response to the Autism Act (2009) and the autism strategy the Department of Health commissioned several projects to work on specific elements of the strategy.

The Society has developed three e-learning modules on autism, which appeal to a range of learners by delivering knowledge and understanding from introductory to specialised levels. The e-learning modules are delivered via the Professional Development Centre. The BPS have worked in partnership with psychologists with expertise in autism and an e-learning provider to produce and deliver theses modules. Two modules are  freely available to both members and non-members of the BPS and the third is aimed principally at psychologists and all professionals working in this field.