Thousands of children with autism have to live with mental health problems because the NHS does not know how to help them, says a new report by the National Autistic Society (NAS).
In a survey of over 450 parents, the charity found that more than 70 per cent of children with autism have mental health problems, such as obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and anxiety disorder, even though many of these problems are preventable. Moreover, the report’s findings show that mental health services failed to improve the mental health of two thirds of children with autism. Indeed, over 40 per cent of parents said their child’s mental health had actually deteriorated because they could not get the services they needed.
In addition, almost a third of parents surveyed said that a lack of appropriate educational provision had had a negative influence on their child’s mental health.
The findings were published as the NAS launched its You Need to Know campaign to draw attention to the problems experienced in the mental health system by those with autism, and the need to educate NHS staff. The charity claims that mental health problems for those with autism can be much more difficult to diagnose and treat because of the complex nature of the condition and, in many cases, where specialist knowledge is lacking, such problems can simply be seen as unfortunate, but unavoidable side effects of autism.
“Too many children with autism are developing preventable mental health problems and find themselves up against a broken system that doesn’t understand them or their needs”, said NAS Chief Executive Mark Lever. “All too often they receive inappropriate, ineffectual and sometimes harmful treatments.”