Autism and Asperger’s strategy signalled by Ivan Lewis

Plans for a groundbreaking national strategy for adults with autism and Asperger’s syndrome have been announced by the government today.

For the first time, research into the number of adults with the condition will be carried out, as part of the strategy. In addition, a study has been commissioned jointly by the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department of Health  into the needs of those in transition from children to adult services. The research will inform the strategy, which will be launched next year.

Care services minister Ivan Lewis said the measures would help people with autism who were “too often abandoned by services” or misdiagnosed and given inappropriate services.

He added: “We still don’t know enough about autism, but we do know that left unsupported, it can have a devastating impact on those who have the condition and their families. One of the key gaps in our knowledge is simple – we don’t know how many people have the condition in any given area.”

In 2006 it was discovered that a far greater number of children had autism – more than 1% of the population – than previously thought. The increase was put down to improved diagnosis and a broader definition of the condition and put a question mark over the number of adults affected.

The National Autistic Society’s I Exist report, launched in February this year, also found that 63% of adults with autism were not receiving sufficient support, with at least one in three experiencing severe mental health difficulties as a result.

Chief executive Mark Lever said that today’s announcement marked a “sea change” in the way people with autism were recognised. “This is great news for the thousands of adults with autism who told us they feel isolated and ignored,” he added. “We are delighted that the government has listened and is taking decisive action. Autism is a serious, lifelong and disabling condition and without the right support it can have a profound and sometimes devastating effect on individuals and families.”

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