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  • Last modified date:
    1 April 2010

Autism spectrum conditions (ASC) are lifelong conditions that affect how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how a person makes sense of the world around them.

An introduction to autism

We use the word ‘spectrum’ because the characteristics of the condition vary from one person to another.

There are three main areas of difficulty, which all people with an ASC share. They are difficulties with:

  • social communication (e.g. problems using and understanding verbal and non-verbal language, such as gestures, facial
     expressions and tone of voice)
  • social interaction (e.g. problems in recognising and understanding other people’s feelings and managing their own)
  • social imagination (e.g. problems in understanding and predicting other people’s intentions and behaviour and imagining   situations outside of their own routine).

Many people with an ASC may experience some form of sensory sensitivity or under-sensitivity, for example to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours.

People with an ASC often prefer to have a fixed routine and can be averse to change. Many people with an ASC may also have a co-morbid condition such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or dyspraxia.

Asperger syndrome is a condition on the autism spectrum. People with Asperger syndrome have fewer problems with speaking than others on the spectrum and are often of average or above average intelligence. However, they may still have complex support needs.

Some people with an ASC are able to live relatively independent lives. Others may require a lifetime of support.

Towards 'Fulfilling and rewarding lives': The first year delivery plan for adults with autism in England

This is the first year delivery plan for the strategy for adults with autism in England. It follows the publication of the strategy, Fulfilling and rewarding lives. This document will show how the strategy is being taken forward over the next twelve months and the priorities for action in these first twelve months.

Fulfilling and rewarding lives: the strategy for adults with autism in England

The first autism strategy for England will kick-start fundamental change in public services helping adults with autism to live independent lives and find work.

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability and although some people can live relatively independently, others will have high dependency needs requiring a lifetime of specialist care. There are approximately 400,000 adults with ASC in England, around half of whom have a learning disability.

Published on 3 March 2010, the strategy sets a clear framework for all mainstream services across the public sector to work together for adults with autism.

Actions in the autism strategy include a new National Autism Programme Board to lead change in public services set out in the strategy; a programme to develop training with health and social care professional bodies (backed by a £500,000 investment); autism awareness training for all Job Centre Disability Employment Advisers; guidance on making public services accessible for adults with autism, like improving buildings, public transport and communication; and a clear, consistent pathway for diagnosis."

A better future: a consultation on a future strategy for adults with autistic spectrum conditions. The Government response

Published: 9 March 2010

During the summer of 2009 the Department of Health consulted on a strategy for adults with autism in England. This is the government response to that consultation.

Adult autism strategy consultation. A summary of the submissions received in response to the online consultation

Published: 19 January 2010

The consultation on the future strategy for adults with autistic spectrum conditions (ASC) closed on 15 September 2009. Over 1,100 responses were received, including from people with ASC, families and carers, voluntary sector organisations and health and social care bodies. This report highlights the findings from the consultation including the importance of training, awareness raising and better diagnosis pathways.

Overarching report of findings from the Adult Autism Strategy consultation activities

Published: 11 January 2010

The consultation on the future strategy for adults with autistic spectrum conditions (ASC) closed on 15 September 2009, Over 1,100 responses were received, including from people with ASC, families and carers, voluntary sector organisations and health and social care bodies. This document is a summary of the findings from the consultation, setting out the approach taken, and the key themes and priority actions identified by respondents.

Services for adults with autistic spectrum conditions (ASC): good practice advice for primary care trust and local authority commissioners

This good practice advice for PCT and local authority commissioners builds on Better Services for People with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder and is part of a programme of work to ensure that people with autistic spectrum conditions receive the right support to live life independently and to the full, exercising choice and control over decisions that affect their lives.

Ministers' visit to the National Autistic Society

On Tuesday 17 February 2009, Department of Health Care Services Minister Phil Hope and Department for Children Schools and Families Minister Sarah McCarthy-Fry visited the National Autistic Society Croydon Service.

They learnt about a range of services on offer at the centre which include activities such as cooking, art, cricket, games and youth clubs. During the visit the Ministers met a group of adult service users, parents and carers to discuss the government's work to support people with autism.

Phil Hope, Minister for Care Services said:

"I am firmly on the side of people with autism and their families. There are some fantastic services out there, like the National Autistic Society service I visited in Croydon, but I want to see more of these good examples across the country so that every child and adult with autism, their families and carers, get the support they deserve.

"Consultation on a new national strategy for autism will begin in April, with the final strategy by the end of the year. Implementation of the strategy will be driven regionally to make sure it makes a real difference to the local services used by children and adults with autism, their families and carers. We will also fund research on the prevalence of autism in adults and develop good practice commissioning guidance for the NHS and local authorities."

Sarah McCarthy-Fry said:
 “I want to see the best possible provision for young people with autism, as part of our wider commitment to young people with special educational needs. That is why I was delighted to announce increased funding for the Autism Education Trust, taking it to £500,000 for 2009-10 and the forthcoming launch of interactive training materials for teachers working with children with autism.
 “My visit with Phil to the National Autistic Centre was a fantastic opportunity to see for myself an excellent example of good work being done for adults with autism – it mirrored a similar visit I went on days earlier to the TreeHouse School where I saw committed, specialist support which is addressing children's needs and helping them to make progress.
 “I am determined that the £200,000 we have committed to exploring how best we can ensure that people with autism make the transition from childhood to being adults without falling through the gaps is money that makes a positive difference.” 

Mark Lever, National Autistic Society chief executive said:
“Autism is a serious, lifelong and disabling condition and without the right support it can have a profound – sometimes devastating – effect on individuals and families. Our research has shown that many thousands of people with autism are isolated and ignored, unable to access the required support, and at least 1 in 3 adults with the condition are experiencing serious mental health difficulties as a result. Phil Hope MP visited one of our services in Croydon earlier this week where he heard first hand from adults with autism about the problems they experience. This was a great opportunity for people with autism to engage directly with the minister. We are delighted that the Government have listened and committed to a range of measures which have the potential to transform the lives of the over half a million people in the UK with this complex disability.”

Better services for people with an autistic spectrum disorder

Published: 16 November 2006

This document clarifies existing government policy and describes good practice relating to adults with an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). It is intended to encourage people in the social care and health field to develop local agendas for action.

This easy read version was written by Wendy Perez, Lucy Saunders, Judith North and Peter Kinsella of Paradigm.

Images in the easy read version are from Say It Works and Photosymbols.

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