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County council sets out autism strategy

North Yorkshire County Council has set out a strategy to improve the lives of adults and their carers living with autism.

The county council is publishing its strategy to coincide with World Autism Day today. This strategy will cover an interim period to meet the needs of adults with autism in North Yorkshire.

Approximately one per cent of the population nationally has an autistic spectrum disorder. This means that there will an estimated 6,000 people in North Yorkshire with autism. Autism is a lifelong condition that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how a person makes sense of the world around them.

A priority for the interim strategy is to continue raising awareness of autism amongst staff in the local authority and health services and to build on the programmes and projects that have already been developed by adult and children’s services.

The county council is currently working in partnership with North Yorkshire’s clinical commissioning groups to develop a strategy for all people living with autism – children and adults – which will be launched in 2015.

County Councillor Clare Wood, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Health and Adult Services said: Greater awareness of the numbers of people with autism, as well as better understanding of autism amongst those providing health, social care, and education services, undoubtedly leads to improved quality of life for those on the autistic spectrum.Joint working across services also leads to more effective support.

An online training tool has already been rolled out to county council staff. Moreover an additional 60 staff likely to work in close contact with people with autism are undergoing specialist training to improve the way they provide support. The authority is also making this training available to a range of other providers in order to promote autism awareness right across our community.

A strategy for meeting the needs of children and young people with autism has been operational since 2012. Since this time the local authority has increased both the breadth and number of parent training programmes across the county to improve support for families.

There has also been an increased amount of autism training for frontline workers including early years practitioners, school staff, junior doctors, health visitors and other health workers, members of the county council’s Youth Support Service, the Disabled Children’s Service and the Integrated Passenger Transport team.

County Councillor Tony Hall, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Children’s Services said: We have done a great deal of work to raise awareness about autism. But there is more to do. Children and adults with autism and their carers can feel very isolated; but with the right kind of support and understanding they can make more sense of the world and lead more independent and fulfilling lives.

The North Yorkshire Partnership Commissioning Unit, which works for the CCGs to ensure priorities are considered across the county, is currently developing a business case for an adult autism assessment and diagnostic service. In addition the CCGs will require that all NHS and other contracted providers take steps to ensure that their organisations have an awareness of autism and can make reasonable adjustment for patients with autism who are in need of services.

World Autism Day is being marked by the showing of a film to local authority staff about a group of North Yorkshire students with autism. The film, which was made last summer, records the students’ thoughts and feelings about growing up with autism, their experiences of school and their desires and hopes for the future. The county council has also developed a series of autism awareness posters for schools which have been created in partnership with children and young people with autism and support workers.

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