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Improving outcomes and managing demand for services for children, young people and young adults with autism and/or learning disabilities

The IPC Academic Partnership online learning event brought together a diverse group of 40 people from commissioning and provider organisations across the UK.

Expert speakers from the National Autistic Society, The Autism Education Trust, the Institute of Public Care and most importantly a parent with lived experience, outlined the ‘big issues’ for autistic children, including the growing numbers, the difficulties parents face in getting the right support, and the increasing demand on specialist services.

Sarah Broadhurst, Director of the Autism Education Trust, said: “As the number of children and young people getting an autism diagnosis rises, we need to ensure that education professionals are equipped to support them. Autism is a complex condition and there is not one intervention that suits all. Supporting autistic children requires a deeper understanding of the condition and a “toolbox” of different strategies to suit the different needs of each child. Without understanding and knowledge gained through training, autistic children and young people often get labelled as naughty or disruptive at school and are at risk of exclusions. This leads to increasing demand on specialist services and EHCPs across all local authorities and a growing number of parents feeling let down by the system.

We believe the solution is to upskill education professionals. Teachers and teaching assistants trained in autism not only gain the knowledge and skills that will be essential to support autistic pupils but also confidence. Teachers previously anxious and unsure about how to support autistic pupils will be able to create autism friendly, calm and inclusive learning environments that will benefit all children. This prevents exclusions, builds capacity for autistic children in mainstream settings and reduces the demand on specialist autism services.”

The central question of how to create the right environment that supports children, young people and young adults with autism and/or a learning disability to have healthy, meaningful, ordinary lives was hotly debated.

Approaches were identified as:

  • Upskilling and supporting the mainstream workforce in schools to help prevent exclusions and reduce demand on more intensive services
  • Ensuring that reasonable adjustments are made so that early years settings, schools, colleges, GPs, community groups, leisure activities and clubs are inclusive and accessible
  • Grant funding small local groups and initiatives that are often parent led and that provide vital community based support
  • Developing a whole system/partnership approach to commissioning that includes social care (both children’s and adults), health and education and that encompasses all levels of need, in particular ensuring that more support is available at the early intervention and prevention stage
  • Co-producing solutions with families, both in terms of individual needs and at a strategic level

If you would like specialist insights about this topic, please contact Clare Dodwell, Principal Consultant at IPC.