The Government has announced its first update of the adult autism strategy since the ground-breaking Autism Act of 2009.
Think Autism includes new initiatives designed to ensure that adults with autism get more of the services and support they need. These include a new awareness initiative to help build understanding among the professionals working with people with autism and among the general public, and to make communities more autism friendly.
An innovation fund has also been announced to support the development and replication of new services that best meet the needs of adults with autism and their families.
The National Autistic Society (NAS) says that awareness of adults with autism will get a major boost under the Think Autism initiatives. NAS Chief Executive Mark Lever believes that Think Autism aims to ensure that the ambitions of the Autism Act are realised. “If all of us involved rise to the challenge, Think Autism offers the chance of a step change in the quality of services and support for adults with autism”, he says.
Mr Lever praised the strategy for tackling “core issues that affect the quality of the lives of adults with autism: understanding and awareness, and the development and delivery of better services.”
However, the NAS cautions that the new initiatives will only make a difference if local authorities and health services establish the best possible plans for local services.
Think Autism has also been welcomed by Ambitious About Autism, whose Chief Executive, Jolanta Lasota, says “The refreshed Autism Strategy helpfully focuses on inclusion for adults with autism – in employment, in communities and in society.”
The charity warns that employment prospects for adults on the spectrum will only improve if the rates of exclusion from education that young people with autism face are addressed. At present, only one in four young people with autism access any kind of education beyond school.
Ms Lasota says it is essential that the new innovation funds look at ways to improve participation in education and training for young people with autism; “…without better access to education, and improved understanding among employers, we will continue to see people with autism struggling to find jobs”, she says.
For more information about Think Autism, click here.