Psychologist logo

Working with autism

New guidelines, and CPD.

03 September 2021

The BPS has published new guidance for practitioner psychologists who work with people who have autism and their families and carers. The document is based on current NICE guidance. 

Download 'Working with autism: best practice guidelines for psychologists'

Written by the BPS Autism Task and Finish Group and chaired by Emeritus Professor of Clinical Child Psychology Patricia Howlin, the guidance emphasises the importance of involving autistic people and their families in decision-making about their assessment and the intervention approaches used with them. It covers many contexts where psychologists work, including with children, young people, adults, older adults and in education, health, social care, employment and the criminal justice system. 

Howlin said she and the working group involved in developing the guidelines made a concerted effort not to advocate a specific therapeutic approach, but rather to provide guidance and support based on psychological principles. 'Autism is a highly complex condition for which the evidence base for causation and treatment is continually developing. The guidance is objective and grounded in evidence and we hope that it will prove invaluable to practitioner psychologists working with autistic people across many different contexts and environments.'

The guidance is split into several sections including assessment, diagnosis and formulation, autism in children and young people, autism in adults, employment, and autism and the criminal justice system. Each of these sections consider areas such as education, the limitations of diagnosis, co-existing conditions, quality of life and interventions, and each concludes with a summary of best practice recommendations. 

The authors also list some areas in need of more research including autism in girls, women and older adults, how to increase autistic people's wellbeing, ways to reduce autistic people's vulnerability to certain physical and mental health conditions and uncovering the most effective models of care for people with autism at different life stages, with different abilities and levels of autism. 

The BPS is also set to launch the first of three eLearning CPD courses on building awareness of adult autism. The other two courses, planned to be released later this autumn, will explore supporting adults with autism and working with adults with autism. 

Delivered through the society's new virtual learning environment, BPS Learn, this first course is designed for anyone with an interest in learning more about autism or for those who work with adults with autism. It will explain autism, explore the experience of having autism, and provide information on supporting people with autism. 

To find out more and to book see