Autism is lifelong…We believe that professional care and support will give all autistic people an improved quality of life.
Support may vary as some autistic people will need continuous lifelong care, others can live entirely independently and some autistic people will benefit from some degree of support.
Together with our member charities we think that one of the main benefits of professional care and support is to minimise anxiety and distress. Support can also expand boundaries. Additionally, where autistic people need a structured day, part of the structure can and should be activities which they enjoy.
Although autism is a lifelong condition, autistic people can:
- Develop skills
- Explore interests
- Improve their physical health
- Improve their social interaction
- Find employment.
There are no skills that an autistic person cannot master if they wish to and have the appropriate help and support. Every autistic person is different, and the level of ability varies hugely. Furthermore, stress and anxiety can impact on a person’s ability to complete tasks. Depending on the person and their level of ability, teaching life skills will take more or less time. For example, if the goal is to learn to cook, some may master this in a few months. For others, it may take many years, starting with learning how to make toast and a cup of tea, and moving on to baking a cake and using an oven safely.
It is important that we encourage the people we support to develop their independence and learn new skills. Having a ‘can do’ attitude can make a huge impact on whether a person feels that they can achieve new goals.
Behaviours of concern
Sometimes autistic people may show stress-related behaviours like harming themselves, harming others or destroying property. This can have a huge impact on their lives and prevent them from being able to access the community. Behaviours of concern are most likely to be caused by stress, but can also be caused by physical illness, pain, and the side effects of medication. Stress can be related to sensory issues, a change in routine, a new environment etc. Sometimes, autistic people are not able to communicate a need, and the behaviour of concern is their only means of communicating this.
If a person is showing behaviours of concern:
- Try to stay calm
- Act confident
- Use positive language
- Be consistent
- Be supportive and understanding
When the autistic person is less stressed, think about what may have triggered the behaviour and how this can be prevented in the future. Some autistic people can feel embarrassed and guilty after an incident so it is important to ensure that they have support systems in place to help them to talk through things if they need to or just relax.
Many autistic people also have co-occurring conditions. These can include a learning disability, mental health problems, but also any other physical health problems, like epilepsy, sleep problems and digestive issues. These co-occurring conditions can have an enormous impact on the autistic person’s quality of life, especially if they go undiagnosed. Unfortunately, some of the features of autism can mean that an autistic person cannot access healthcare easily, or are not understood by healthcare professionals. This can mean there is a delay in their diagnosis, which makes many of these issues worse.
Many co-occurring conditions can also be linked to behaviours of concern. For example, research suggests that sleep problems are associated with more behaviours of concern.