Speaking at Wrexham Council’s Autism Event on Saturday, North Wales Assembly Member and Chair of the Assembly’s Cross Party Group on Autism, Mark Isherwood, made fresh calls for Autism to be given a statutory identity in Wales.
Mr Isherwood stressed that Autism is not an illness or disease and cannot be 'cured', and said that “we must move beyond Autism awareness to Autism empowerment” and that “if we are to have true integration in services for the autism community, then we must see the world through their eyes”.
Speaking at the event, he said:
“Whilst reports indicate that some progress has been made to improve Autism services in Wales, they also indicate that there are inconsistences in the service and support offered which impacts on outcomes for Autistic people and their families.
“The ‘Evaluation of the Integrated Autism Service and the Autism Spectrum Disorder Strategic Action Plan’ final report for the Welsh Government in April, and the Welsh Government’s Autistic Spectrum Disorder Strategic Action Plan Annual Report 2018-2019 in July, evaluated the current status of Autism Services.
“As I stated when leading a debate in the Assembly Chamber on these in July, it is important that the Welsh Government deliver long term, sustainable high quality Autism support services by implementing the recommendations of April’s evaluation and ensuring that services strengthen the Autistic Voice by moving beyond Autism awareness to Autism empowerment, developing a clear and consistent monitoring system, clarifying future funding arrangements, and delivering the priorities of action’ outlined in the ‘Refreshed Autistic Spectrum Disorder Strategic Action Plan’, including education and employment opportunities.”
He added: “At a meeting of the Cross Party Autism Group in November 2014, members of the Autism Community from across Wales told us that the Welsh Government’s Autism Strategy was not delivering and people were being pushed into further crisis. The meeting voted unanimously to call for an Autism Act.
“Autism must have a statutory identity in Wales – with specific duties placed on Local Authorities and Health Boards.
“Reliance on the Welsh Government’s revised ASD Action Plan and Integrated Autism Service – or IAS - otherwise risks more of the same, to the detriment of both hard working professionals and the Autism Community.
“Every day, my office and I are contacted by Autistic people or their family members, in crisis because service providers don’t understand what Autism is – despite going on the training course.
“As I stated when proposing a Wales Autism Bill in the Assembly Chamber in October 2016, “the Autism Community will not receive the support they know they need until there is statutory underpinning and accountability – and we move beyond consultation to a direct role for professional and Third Sector bodies, and the Autism community, in design, delivery and monitoring.
“If we are to have true integration in services for the autism community then we must become more flexible in the delivery of services and see the world through their eyes”.
“My staff and I repeatedly emphasise to Public Bodies: that when an Autistic person is not given enough time to process information it can lead to them feeling anxious and, in the worse-case scenario, they can have a meltdown, that because ‘autistic people may be over-sensitive to some senses, under-sensitive to others and often a combination of both, this can cause pain and sensory overload, leading to a meltdown’, and that a change to routine and structure can be very distressing’ for Autistic people.
“It is therefore incumbent on Public Services to establish and adjust to an autistic person’s social and communication needs, recognise the causes of an Autistic persons heightened anxiety/meltdown and therefore avoid treating the Autistic person as the problem.”