Children and young people included in new national autism strategy for the first time

3 mins read

Wednesday 28 July 2021

Tags: autism strategy, national autism strategy, autism

Contact has welcomed the inclusion of children and young people in the National Autism Strategy for the very first time. 

The government’s refreshed strategy sets out how it plans to support and improve the lives of autistic adults and children in England over the next five years. It now includes a whole section on autistic children and young people along with commitments to improve their education and support for ‘ positive transitions’.

Each council and NHS body will now need to look at the new strategy to see how it can improve its local services.  Commitments for children and young people include: 

  • £600,000 to train teachers and improve educational professionals’ understanding of autism and improve inclusive cultures in school 
  • A new anti-bullying programme in schools  
  • Improvements to how the SEND system supports autistic children and young people, including better early identification (via the not yet published SEND review) 
  • Making sure autistic young people can find supported internships and apprenticeships
  • 37 new special free schools across England, 24 with autism specific provision, opening in September 2022 

“This will be welcome news for many families we support. We know autistic children often wait a long time for a diagnosis, while others struggle because of the lack of support. Meanwhile autistic pupils experience unacceptably high rates of exclusion. Previous national autism strategies have focused only on autistic adults. But autism is a life-long condition often diagnosed in childhood. Autistic children benefit from early acceptance, understanding and intervention so it is vital the national strategy reflects that.”

Contact’s health lead, Amanda Elliot

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism’s inquiry into the impact of the Autism Act 10 years after its introduction, found poor understanding of autism among education staff, often left autistic children and young people without the help they need at school. Fewer than 5 in 10 education staff were confident about supporting autistic children and young people leading to missed opportunities to help children reach their potential or prevent children’s needs or distressed behaviour from escalating. 

The government’s updated National Autism strategy will bolster ongoing work at NHS England including the recent extension of the Transforming Care Accelerator project – an innovative scheme to prevent the exclusion and hospitalisation of autistic children – to 7 more English regions.  Supported by Contact, this scheme will see parent carer forums working with schools to ensure the voices of autistic young people are heard and used to develop practical ways to prevent exclusions and crises.