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Discrimination is still, sadly, a part of everyday life for many people with learning disabilities, but there are on-going initiatives to challenge this.

Power to the people

Watching brief: BAME autism support

Too many people with autism in black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are missing out on vital support, says Simon Shaw from the National Autistic Society:

Families of all backgrounds and ethnicities living with autism commonly struggle to access a diagnosis and support, but the National Autistic Society’s (NAS) recent Diverse Perspectives report showed that language and cultural differences among people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities can create additional barriers.

Ethnicity should never be an obstacle to accessing the right support, which can often be a lifeline for individuals and families affected by autism. A coordinated effort from decision makers, service providers and faith and community groups would go a long way to ensuring that the needs of families from BAME communities are met.

We first started our investigation into the challenges faced by families living with autism in BAME communities in 2012, after concluding that they had been underrepresented in a nationwide survey we carried out earlier that year.

So we approached organisations and individuals working with families affected by autism within BAME communities in England to learn about their needs and experiences. With their help, we set up 13 focus groups involving about 130 parents, siblings, carers and adults with autism.

Their opinions form the basis of Diverse Perspectives. The findings reinforce previous research that showed most families affected by autism struggle to get a diagnosis, access the services they need and integrate their child within their local community, whatever their ethnicity. But they also suggest that certain additional challenges are more prevalent within BAME communities.