Autism & Transition



Estimates say that around six children in every 1,000 in the UK are on the  Autistic Spectrum and have been diagnosed as having an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  Although this figure has risen over the last two decades experts are unsure as to whether it is becoming more widespread or whether professionals are becoming increasingly skilled at diagnosis.


What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

ASD is a developmental disorder of brain function characterised by social impairments, communication difficulties and repetitive behaviours.  The term ‘spectrum’ is used because the symptoms of ASD can vary from mild to severe with people having very different features or symptoms.   Usually diagnosed early on in childhood boys are around four times more likely to be affected by ASD than girls.

Diagnosis falls into three categories

1)      Autism, Autistic Disorder, or Classic Autism:
The most severe form of ASD usually associated with difficulties with language, social interaction and behaviour.

2)      Aspergers Syndrome:
People with Aspergers usually have above-average intelligence and have ‘milder’ symptoms than those with Autism.  Their language development is often unaffected, however social interaction can still be an issue in terms of understanding nuances in language.

3)      Pervasive Developmental Disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS):
Known as ‘atypical autism’, this diagnosis is used for children who share some, but not all, of the traits of autistic disorder and / or Aspergers syndrome.  Most children with PDD-NOS have milder symptoms than children with autistic disorder, but not always.  However, they do not share the language skills and above-average intelligence associated with Aspergers syndrome.

Many children with severe forms of Autism may well have associated learning disabilities, epilepsy, Fragile X syndrome and other health issues.  These complex needs often require specialist care, particularly as around 20% to 30% of children with ASD develop epilepsy by the time they reach adulthood.


Causes of ASD

Whilst there is no firm consensus amongst scientists and professionals regarding the exact causes of Autism, most agree that genetics and environment (such as chemicals and viruses) have some sort of direct impact.  Research into the causes of Autism continues all over the world.


Symptoms / Diagnosis

Well documented on websites such as The National Autistic Society and Contact A Family, symptoms of Autism centre around problems and difficulties with social interaction.  In more severe cases, unusual patterns of physical behaviour and impaired language and communication skills are common.  By the time a child is approaching their mid-teens most symptoms will have presented themselves.


Autism & Transition to Adult Services

As no two cases of Autism are the same, professionals find it hard to assess the exact future requirements and needs of teenagers with Autism.  This impacts transition because all Adult Services and funding thereof depend on the assessment and requirements set out in that document.

Parents of children with Autism need to ensure they get a thorough and accurate assessment for their child that covers all aspects of their personal, developmental and care needs.  Without this, providers will not be able to offer services that meet their needs under the funding package that is offered by the Local Authority and services will under-perform.

It is also important to recognise that transition for those with Autism into a residential or supported living environment can be harder than for those with other disabilities.  A detailed transition plan is essential to ensure any move is done over a period of time that allows the individual to feel perfectly settled when they finally move in.


Long Term Care for those with Autism

As with all support for people with long term care needs, communication is key in supporting individuals with Autism.  Who is caring for them will play a major role in their happiness and wellbeing on a day-to-day basis.   It is therefore important to ensure the staff team who will be supporting your son or daughter are the right people from day one.

It is also important to ensure that your child is going to get the space they need when they are not interested in social interaction.  Developing independent living skills is essential to allow them a place of their own, whether that be within a residential environment or in their own accommodation.


Questions to Ask Care Providers: Specific to Autism
  • How spacious is the home in the context of the number of other people my child will be sharing with?
  • How are homes specifically designed for people with autism?
  • What private / quiet areas are there for my child to have their own space?
  • How well trained and experienced are the staff in supporting people with autism?
  • How do you match the support team to ensure the best fit with someone with autism?


Other ‘Spotlight Topics’

Duty of Care vs Choice

Residential Care vs Supported Living

Residential Colleges

Support vs Care