Government review to improve lives of autistic children

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The Government has launched a review of services and support for children with autism.

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The review will collect evidence from autistic children, their families and carers on how to improve the support they receive.

It will inform the new joint adults and children autism strategy, due to be published in autumn 2019.

The Government review will cover the following:

  • Joining up health, care and education services to address autistic children’s needs holistically.
  • The development of diagnostic services to diagnose autism earlier, in line with clinical guidance.
  • Improving understanding of autism and all its profiles, including recently identified forms such as pathological demand avoidance (PDA).

Minister for care Caroline Dinenage said, ‘I want to see young people on the autism spectrum given the same start in life as any other child. Currently, outcomes simply aren’t good enough, with too many autistic children falling through the cracks and not getting the care and support they need.

‘With the right support, they can live happy, healthy and independent lives within their own communities, so it’s vital we have a national autism strategy that works for both children and adults.

Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi added, ‘Our ambitions for children with autism are exactly the same as for all other children – to do well in school and college, find sustained employment and live happy and fulfilled lives.

‘Schools and colleges already do a great job at supporting children with autism, but we know there is more to do to make sure these young people are given the opportunity to unlock their full potential and succeed.

‘This pivotal review will help to find out how we can further our understanding of all forms of autism, improve how children and adults are supported and transform the life outcomes for people with autism.’

The review was welcomed by the National Autistic Society, which has been calling for children to be included in the adult autism strategy, which launched nearly 10 years ago.

The updated national autism strategy will cover people of all ages in England for the first time.

Commenting, Jane Harris, director of External Affairs at the National Autistic Society, said, 'This is fantastic news and has the potential to improve the lives of the 125,000 autistic children in England – and future generations. We hear every day from parents of autistic children that they are waiting for years to get a diagnosis, a decent education or basic support for their children. This can have a devastating and lifelong impact, often affecting the whole family's mental health or children's long-term chances in life.

'A recent inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism found that half of parents wait more than a year for the right education support for their autistic children - and over four in ten were turned away the first time they asked for an assessment for support for their child. This isn’t good enough.'

Launching Ofsted's annual report on Tuesday, Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said that children with autism are waiting up to two years to be diagnosed, and the quality of Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans are ‘too variable and weak’.

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