This World Autism Acceptance Week, make sure your service is inclusive

How can health and social care services be more accessible?
two women having a conversation

Today marks the start of World Autism Acceptance Week – and at Healthwatch Brent we are putting a call out to ask local health and social care services to make sure you are inclusive for all autistic people.

To ensure your staff have an understanding of autism and are able to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010 is a key part of addressing health inequalities within our borough. 

Introducing Brent’s Autism Care Navigator

In Brent we are lucky to have an Autism Care Navigator supporting adults who are on the autism assessment waiting list or who have had an autism diagnosis.

This service is provided by Pam Wrest. Pam is an Independent Autism & Learning Disability Practitioner/Trainer, with over 25 years’ experience in the Health & Social Care sector, supporting children and vulnerable adults. She is a safeguarding lead, with a thorough knowledge of Health & Social Care legislation and LowTec Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC) methods. One of her latest involvements was sitting on a NICE Guidelines Committee re Advocacy Services for Adults with Health & Social Care needs. You can read more about that here.

As care navigator, Pam can provide information about local health and social care services and support with access, for instance by making a referral. She will also collect feedback about experiences with local services and the autism diagnosis process. One way local services can provide support is by making patients aware of the service. There is more information on The Advocacy Project website.

What services can do to be more inclusive

We asked Pam to explain some of the ways that local health services can do more to support autistic patients. Here are a few tips:

  • Promote self advocacy. If you are not sure what the person wants, ask them. Pam believes that every person is unique, with their own wants and needs. She supports Dr Stephen Shore who said “When you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”
  • Keep the person at the centre of their care. Avoid making assumptions– that autism does not automatically mean lack of capacity to make decisions or understand treatment.
  • Follow the Best Interest process if there are concerns, to ensure the patient's voice is heard in the decision making process and that the persons liberties are protected. Learn more about this by reading about the Mental Capacity Act and Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards
  • Take the time to learn about autism. The National Autistic Society have useful information about it on their ‘What is autism?’ advice page. It is also helpful to understand the language surrounding autism. You will notice in this article we have used the phrase ‘autistic people’ rather than ‘people with autism’. This is identity-first language which is preferred by many autistic people but if in doubt, ask them!
  • Be aware that although there are many models of disability, evidence shows that autistic adults perception of autism align with the  Biopsychosocial model, which has been endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) since 2001. This takes into account the social aspects of disability and does not see disability only as a ‘medical’ or ‘biological’ dysfunction. For example, affirming the value and worth of an autistic person, involves recognising their identity as an autistic person.

There is also training available for services that want to be more inclusive and understand how to better support autistic people. For more information, contact Pam: