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October 2020



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Archive for October 4th, 2020

Published on 12 August 2020

The Government has published guidance on the support autistic people who are unwell with COVID-19 in inpatient care should be able to get.

We have outlined the key points that affect support for autistic children and adults in inpatient care, for example in a mental health hospital, who have one of the following:

  •  any symptoms of COVID-19
  • a confirmed case of COVID-19
  • an underlying health condition which makes them part of the ‘extremely vulnerable’ group – also known as the ‘shielding’ group.

What has changed?

Testing: If an autistic person is suspected to have COVID-19 , they should be tested straight away and health professionals should keep the person under regular observation to make sure their symptoms don’t get worse.

Shielding: If you or the autistic person you support is also part of the ‘extremely clinically vulnerable’, or ‘shielding’ group, they should be prioritised for an ensuite room. This is to protect them from the virus. Hospitals should reorganise their layout and staff to make sure extremely vulnerable people are protected. If an ensuite room isn’t available, people should be put in a side bay/ward as quickly as they can to reduce the risk of getting coronavirus, or if they have the virus, of passing it on.

People who have COVID-19 will have to self-isolate as much as possible in inpatient care to stop the virus from spreading.

What if I or the person I support gets coronavirus and becomes really unwell?

  • If this happens, you or the person you support may be transferred to acute care in a hospital. Staff in the hospital and the commissioners should work together and follow their regular guidelines on transferring patients from inpatient care. They should explain what is happening and help you or the person you support to prepare for it.
  • Health professionals caring for the person you support must continue to avoid restrictive practices where at all possible. You or the person you support might find it helpful to use ourHealth Passport, which helps autistic people communicate their needs to doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals.
  • If important decisions need to be made, they should be discussed with you, or the person you support directly as well as family members or carers. All the relevant information should be accessible, so everyone understands what’s happening. 

How should mental health hospitals stop the coronavirus from spreading?

  • If someone has symptoms or a confirmed case of COVID-19, they need to self-isolate and get tested immediately.
  • If an autistic person has symptoms or a confirmed case of the virus, staff in the service should draw up a management and isolation plan for that person. This should take into account things that might be difficult for an autistic person, for example if a staff member wears personal protective equipment (PPE), which could be frightening.
  • You have to be told if another person on the ward has been confirmed with COVID-19. Staff should also tell you if any changes have been made to the way they care for you or the person you support because they’re trying to stop the virus from spreading.
  • Autistic people might find it difficult to understand social distancing rules, especially in an environment like a mental health hospital. If you, or the person you support, do struggle, staff in the service must carry out case-by-case reviews, using legal guidance about how to support individuals.

Continue Reading …


Published on 20 August 2020

As the science about the spread of the coronavirus has developed over the last few months, the Government’s view on the importance of face coverings has changed. The science now shows that if people are in enclosed spaces, for example on a train or in a shop, face coverings can help protect people from getting and transmitting coronavirus if most people wear one.

Many autistic people will be able to wear a face covering and we have heard from lots of people who have prepared themselves for this change. But for some autistic people it will be too hard. This might be because of the sensory differences autistic people experience, or they might become really distressed or want to remove their mask. So, there are important exemptions in place for autistic people who will struggle to wear a mask.

We are working with autistic people to develop information and tips for you if you want to wear a mask.

From 31 July, face coverings are now mandatory and should be worn in public indoor venues unless you have a legitimate reason not to wear one.

It is not mandatory to wear face coverings in:

  • Eat-in restaurants and pubs
  • Gyms

The Government has said that you don’t need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to, which includes:

  • Young children under the age of 11 (Public Health England do not recommended face coverings for children under the age of 3 for health and safety reasons)
  • Not being able to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • If putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
  • If you are travelling with or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
  • To avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others

If you do wear a face covering, there are times when you are allowed to remove it when you’re asked to:

  • In a bank, building society, or post office for identification
  • By shop staff for identification, for example when buying age-restricted products like alcohol
  • Speaking with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound. Some may ask you, either verbally or in writing, to remove your covering to help with communication.

It won’t be compulsory for shop or supermarket staff to wear face coverings, but many staff will wear masks, or be behind screens.

On public transport

In England, the rules are that you have to wear a face covering on public transport unless you have a good reason not to. The Government has given some examples of when you don’t have to wear a face covering, which include:

  • if you are younger than 11 years old
  • if you can’t put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
  • if you are travelling with or helping someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
  • to avoid harm or injury to you or others.

This means that if you or the person you support is autistic and finds putting a face covering on really hard or distressing, you don’t have to wear one. The Government’s list isn’t exhaustive, which means there could be other reasons why you don’t have to wear a face covering too.

We have told the Government that transport staff and the public need to know about these exemptions so that you or the person you support aren’t challenged by staff, the public or the British Transport Police. We have produced an information sheet that you can share with transport staff if you are asked why you are not wearing a face covering and you can also download our I am Autistic card.

What to do if someone asks you why you’re not wearing a face covering

You do not need to prove that you are autistic to be exempt. But, we recommend you download and print our information sheet that you can share if you are asked why you are not wearing a face covering and you can also download our I Am Autistic Card. 

If you are challenged and would prefer to use the non-branded exemption cards you can

If you are challenged or harassed because you are not wearing a face covering, try and speak to a staff member or show them your I am Autistic card. If you don’t feel comfortable or safe to do so, you can report this to the police. It’s not okay for people, whether that’s the public or staff, to challenge people aggressively.

Individual places’ rules on face coverings

We have been hearing some businesses are going beyond the Government guidance and telling everyone they have to wear a face covering, even if it’s not an enclosed space. This is wrong – as they should be allowing you not to wear one as a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act 2010.

Read More …


Published on 07 September 2020


The coronavirus outbreak has affected everyone. But it’s left many autistic people and their families completely stranded. Our new report, supported by four other leading autism organisations, highlights the often disproportionate and devastating impact the mental health, wellbeing and education prospects of hundreds of thousands of autistic people and their families.Read our report

Together with Ambitious about Autism, Autistica, Scottish Autism, and the Autism Alliance, we are calling on all governments in the UK to create an action plan to protect autistic people and their families from any future waves of the pandemic – and to address existing inequalities by investing in support and services.

Sign our open letter

Please sign our open letter to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak MP, calling on him to invest in autistic people’s futures, ahead of the Spending Review this autumn.

We found that: 

  • 9 in 10 autistic people worried about their mental health during lockdown; 85% said their anxiety levels got worse
  • Autistic people were 7 times more likely to be chronically lonely than the general population*; and 6 times more likely to have low life satisfaction** (comparisons using ONS data)
  • 1 in 5 family members responding to the survey had to reduce work due to caring responsibilities
  • 7 in 10 parents say their child has had difficulty understanding or completing school work and around half said their child’s academic progress was suffering.

Thank you to the 4,232 autistic people and families in the UK who responded to our survey during June and July. Your responses show that coronavirus and the lockdown deepened existing entrenched inequalities. The disruption, uncertainty and pace of change triggered huge levels of anxiety and for some was made worse by the withdrawal of support from social care, education and mental health services.

The Government’s Coronavirus Act temporarily weakened many of the duties on councils to provide support. But even before these powers were created, or in areas where they never came into force, we heard of people losing their mental health, education and social care support services – sometimes with little notice. On top of this, many autistic people reported having huge difficulties shopping for food. The new rules about going into shops alone (without support), new layouts and the rules on masks left many feeling overwhelmed and, in some cases, like they couldn’t go out at all.

While these concerns led to anxiety for most autistic people, the impact was felt most strongly by those with higher support needs, autistic women and non-binary people. This research was led by the National Autistic Society, as part of a project funded by the Pears Foundation, with a number of other autism charities supporting.

Continue Reading …


Published on 24 September 2020

The Welsh Government has launched a new consultation on its Code of Practice on the Delivery of Autism Services. The Code aims to set out what is legally required of services provided by local authorities, health boards and other public bodies in relation to the support they offer autistic people and their families in Wales. 

This follows our Left Stranded report, highlighting the experiences of autistic people and families during the coronavirus pandemic and calling on the Welsh Government to issue this Code and make improving services and support for autistic people a priority. 

Read the Code

The four main chapters in the Code outline: 

  • arrangements for autism assessment and diagnosis
  • arrangements for accessing health and social care services
  • arrangements for awareness raising and training on autism
  • arrangements for planning and monitoring services and stakeholder engagement

The Code of Practice on the Delivery of Autism Services responds to our calls for clear, legally-binding duties on public services to provide support and improve the services available. And whilst we remain disappointed that a proposed an Autism Act for Wales was rejected by the Senedd last year, we are optimistic that the Code offers the potential to meaningfully strengthen the rights of autistic people and their families in Wales.

Our charity, alongside autistic people and families, will be looking closely at the Code and suggesting ways to further improve and strengthen it, and to ensure everyone has their say.

We will provide regular updates on how to get involved in the consultation, so be sure to follow us on Twitter, like our Facebook page, and sign up for email updates.