Autism is a lifelong disability; Autistic children grow into Autistic adults. Autism is a spectrum condition, meaning that every Autistic person, and their needs, are different. A handful of Autistic people may have a coinciding learning disability and require 24-hour care. Some Autistic people may need a few hours of guidance at home each week to assist them living independently, while others simply need access to a social group to stop them becoming isolated.
For everyone on the spectrum it’s vital that they get the right support at the right time.
For Autistic children – although there is definitely room for improvement – this support is easier to access than it is for Autistic adults.
An inquiry, published in September 2019, by the ‘All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism’ (APPGA) and the ‘National Autistic Society’ (NAS) on the impact of the Autism Act, 10 years after its introduction saw a survey completed by 11,000 Autistic adults as well as six evidence sessions presented in Parliament.
To no surprise, the inquiry concluded that there is not enough care, support, and understanding in our society for adults on the Autism spectrum.
The below figures were published:
- 26% of Autistic adults need support to live more independently… only 5% have access to the support.
- 20% of Autistic adults need support with day-to-day tasks, like washing, cooking and going out of the house…. only 6% receive this support.
- 38% of Autistic adults need support from social groups… only 16% have groups made available to them.
APPGA and NAS’ inquiry found that that two in three Autistic adults don’t get the support they desperately need.
The lack of support services available can lead to Autistic people becoming isolated and ‘shutting down’ because they are unable to cope in society alone and without help. This can then lead to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. In the worse cases, and far too often, you hear of Autistic people being sectioned under the mental health act as there is nowhere else for them to go; sectioned as they have reached a crisis point & there are no other services or support available to them.
The definition of “mental disorder” in the Mental Health Act currently includes Autism. This means that you can be sectioned for being Autistic, even if you don’t have a mental health condition.
In January of this year (2021) a White Paper was issued by the government which proposes to change this definition to one important type of ’section’, sometimes called a ’section 3’. This would mean Autistic people couldn’t be sectioned for longer than 28 days unless it is to treat another mental health condition.
This is a welcome change and hopefully means that fewer Autistic people will be sectioned because there has been a misunderstanding about their actions or needs.
The thought of someone on the spectrum being sectioned, taken away from their safe spaces and those who love and care for them, breaks my heart. When, often, Autistic people may only need guidance, acceptance and understanding from others so that they can thrive within themselves & their communities. By sectioning people, you are putting the blame onto the person with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). You are indicating they are not safe or fit to be a member of society, but how can they be a member of a society which is not accepting of their differences or, supportive of their needs?
I wanted to publish this post during World Autism Awareness Week, about the need for more funding to be directed into adults Autism services, as it is an issue which is becoming more prominent as I am getting older. I hear stories and see first-hand the lack of adequate care available to those on the spectrum and I can’t help but feel scared about what may happen to me when I next need extra support. What if one day everything becomes too much and I can no longer function in society, will they lock me away like they have done to so many others like me?
I am thankful that NAS are constantly campaigning for more funding to be directed into Autism services; including services for adults. World Autism Awareness Week is a chance to speak up for the rights of all Autistic people and highlight the social, economic, health and educational obstacles that many Autistic people face.
Through events like World Autism Awareness Week understanding and acceptance will continue to grow and one day, the help and support those on the Autism spectrum desperately need, will be ready and waiting for each of us.