Bold new training programme will improve the lives of people with autism

A new training programme will enable health and social care professionals to be more aware and better serve the needs of autistic people across the county.

Autism is a complex, lifelong developmental disability which can impact a person’s social skills, communication, relationships and self-regulation.

Autistic people may act in different ways to others and sometimes find it difficult to communicate and interact with unfamiliar people in public areas which can be too loud and bright for them.

As a result, accessing important health, care, financial or other support can be a difficult and stressful experience.

By building the knowledge and confidence of those trained, they will be able to make instant and reasonable adaptions to their own behaviour and surroundings to help an autistic person feel included, welcomed, understood and supported.

Assessing when to make small changes, such as simply warning when a bright light is put on or off or ensuring there is a quiet atmosphere, could allow an autistic person to fully engage, receive, and give, important information. Other simple techniques include giving instructions in short sentences.

The training programme has been commissioned through a partnership with Dorset Council and Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (Dorset CCG).

A collaboration between a specialist autism charity Autism Unlimited and autistic people and their families, has created specific training which addresses the needs of autistic people in the county.

Autism Unlimited, based in Christchurch, provides education, training and supported living to children and young adults with autism from across the region.

The bespoke training programme, which will be rolled out this year, will be offered to Dorset’s health and social care workers. The future vision is to offer the training to those who work in education, the voluntary sector and parents or carers.

Donna Wearn, Executive Director of People, Performance and Learning at Autism Unlimited, said: “This is an amazing step forward for the autistic community in Dorset and we are thrilled to be partnering with the councils and healthcare partners to deliver this training package which has been co-produced with the autistic network.

“There is growing recognition that only minor changes are required to accommodate the needs of autistic people.”

“Autism Unlimited exists to support and empower autistic children, adults and their families. We work collaboratively, listen and respect the view that all autistic individuals are recognised for their unique skills and abilities.”

“This is the first of many training in the workplace educational programmes we are running during 2022 and we are absolutely delighted that we are starting with council and health employees.”

Councillor Peter Wharf, Portfolio Holder for Adult Social Care at Dorset Council, said: “Autistic people often encounter barriers due to a lack of public understanding of autism.”

“Autistic people can often experience a lack of timely and informed support for themselves and their families, poor access to general health and mental health services, an inability to gain and maintain employment based on their strengths and abilities, as well as social isolation and loneliness.”

Laura White, Learning Disability and Autism Programme Lead at Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group said: “This is an exciting development for Dorset and part of a cultural shift in the understanding of autism and building a workforce who feel confident in making suitable adjustments to support autistic people.

“To improve the lives of autistic people and services they may use, there needs to be improved public understanding of autism, with reasonable adjustments made to educational, recreational, employment, justice and public services which would enable autism friendly environments.”

Councillor Karen Rampton, Portfolio Holder for People and Homes, at BCP Council, said: “We welcome the roll out of this training which will be of great benefit to our professionals in social care. It’s so important that we can raise awareness and increase better understanding of autism and remove any barriers so that we can give the best care and support to our residents and their families.”

Tracey Naylor, steering group member at Dorset Parent Carer Council, said: “We are very excited and enthused be involved in this project, a much needed and long-awaited development which will certainly benefit and be welcomed by many of the families we represent.

“We are particularly pleased the training will be delivered by and include the lived experience of people from Dorset.”

A spokesman for the Parent Carers Together (PCT) Forum, said: “PCT hope this training will bring about a cultural change within organisations, promoting an understanding and a shared vision on how to improve services.

“We hope once this training has been rolled out it will eventually feed into the wider society and trigger changes in how autism is viewed.

“As this training will be co-produced and co-delivered by autistic people, we feel there is an opportunity for professionals to gain a better understanding of autism and the impacts this has on both the individual and their family.

“We would like to highlight many parents of autistic children have received an autistic diagnosis themselves. It is hoped this training will enable autistic parents to feel supported and more comfortable to share their lived experience and together we work collaboratively to better support the autistic community.”

More about Autism Unlimited can be found here – Autism Unlimited (autism-unlimited.org)

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