Nice urges help for families of autistic children

Tristan Donovan
Thursday, August 29, 2013

Health and social services should identify the support needs of siblings and parents of children on the autism spectrum, according to new guidance.

Children on the autism spectrum should be offered extra support at times of change in their life says Nice. Image: The National Autistic Society
Children on the autism spectrum should be offered extra support at times of change in their life says Nice. Image: The National Autistic Society

The guidance issued by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) says that health and social care professionals should assess what support can be offered to families to help them care for autistic children.

It says that these assessments should cover personal, social and emotional support as well as practical help with caring, such as short breaks.

Nice also recommends that services are tailored to the individual needs of children on the autism spectrum to ensure they get the best care possible.

Professor Gillian Baird, the consultant paediatrician who chaired the team that developed the guidelines, said: “Many people who have autism will have other physical, neurodevelopmental or mental health conditions such as intellectual disability, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and sleep problems which are not always recognised.

“Assessment needs to be tailored to the individual and their families or carers, to enable them to get the right intervention and support from education, health services and voluntary organisations.”

The guidance says that children with autism should have access to leisure activities and receive more support during periods of change such as puberty, the birth of a sibling or starting at a new school.

Nice also says that each autistic child should have a case manager or key worker responsible for overseeing their treatment and that children who develop sleep problems should be referred to paediatric sleep specialists if necessary.

Srabani Sen, chief executive of the family support charity Contact a Family, said the advice was good news for families with children on the autistic spectrum: “We frequently hear from families with children on the autism spectrum, who struggle to access support.

“The recommendations in these guidelines have the potential to greatly improve the way children and young people on the autism spectrum and their families are supported.

“We hope these guidelines will be used to inform how services are commissioned locally.”

Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society, also welcomed Nice’s advice.

“These guidelines will help health professionals work better with families and provide clear guidance on the best way to use therapies and interventions based on existing evidence,” he said.

“The guidelines also underline that claims of a ‘cure’ for autism are without foundation and set out that the right support tailored to each child or young person with autism will help them to live a happy and fulfilling life.

“Autism can be challenging but the right support at the right time can make all the difference and implementation of these recommendations would be a step towards achieving this goal.”

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