Improving services for people with Autism


Improving services for people with Autism

Two new initiatives have been launched by the Health and Social Care Board's Regional Autistic Spectrum Disorder Network (RASDN) to improve information and services for parents, carers and users of autism services.


‘Six Steps of Autism Care: for Children and Young People in Northern Ireland’ and ‘Autism: A Guide for Families’ were launched by Christine Jendoubi, Director of Mental Health and Disability Policy, Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.


The first initiative is a new pathway that now means that no matter where you live in Northern Ireland, there will be a consistent approach to autism assessment, diagnosis and intervention for children. The second initiative, the Guide, is a series of leaflets providing valuable information on a range of issues following the diagnosis of a child or young person.


Speaking at the launch, Dr Stephen Bergin, RASDN Chair said; “I am delighted that by working together we have made significant progress in improving information and services for parents, carers and users of autism services. Building on this, we now need to pay greater attention towards services for older adolescents and adults, but this success gives us a positive basis on which to move forward.”


Shauna McCrea, Western Health and Social Care Trust’s Autism Spectrum Disorder Coordinator, said: "The new resource is a welcome addition to the support provided for families living with autism. The Western Trust is delighted to have been involved with all the partners in this regional project and we are committed to implementing the Six Steps of Autism Care. We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with families and service users to enhance autism care in line with local needs."


Regional Reference Group member, Helen Hamill, parent/carer commented: “The publications provide a guide to the level of information and support people across the region should expect, but they are only a start and this work must be built upon to develop proper supports that continue into adulthood."  


Elizabeth Bradley, also a parent representative on the Regional Reference Group said: “The focus is now on individual Trusts. Parents, carers and service users should be fully involved in continuing discussions, as equal partners, if we are to see real change for the better."


RASDN was set up by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in 2009 to improve outcomes for children, young people and adults with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families.


Services have improved significantly over the last two years and work is in progress to make further developments in the near future. Over the last three years additional funding has been invested in specialist autism services with a further £1.6m per year recurrent investment provided to Trusts between 2008-2011. This includes £100,000 to take forward much needed adult autism diagnostic services. Since providing this investment there has been a marked reduction in waiting lists for diagnosis, down from more than 12 months to 13 weeks across all health and social care Trusts. In addition, the number of front line specialist autism practitioners has doubled from around 40 in 2008/09 to 80 in 2011. There are now specialist ASD Teams, along with a lead ASD coordinator, in place in each Trust. These coordinators are taking forward a programme to improve ASD services in each Trust.


If you are a parent/carer or service user and would like further information please contact Shauna McCrea, Western Health and Social Care Trust’s Autism Spectrum Disorder Coordinator on (028) 7130 8313 or Email:

To view the new autism resources please click here