Many everyday services could become less daunting for people with autism if a few, small, simple changes to the way they are provided are made, a survey has found.

The survey, commissioned by 36 autism charities to mark World Autism Awareness Day 2011, found that service that had made autism-friendly changes found them easy to make. Furthermore, top-down policy changes are not needed – instead staff should be encouraged to take the initiative in changing the way they and their colleagues respond to and interact with people with autism.

The online survey was carried out during April by Publitas Consulting LLP and had 566 responses, with about 40% coming from individuals already providing specific services for people with autism. Key changes that can be made include reducing the reliance upon spoken and face-to-face communication, which many people with autism can find challenging, in favour of written or visual information, such as email. Modifications to the physical setting for services to reduce the sensory overload that many people with autism feel in public places could also be put on the agenda. Where such changes had already been made it was reported that they had been easy to implement although time and effort was needed to put them in place. Elsewhere, respondents said that increasing awareness of autism across the board was better than concentrating autism awareness training on those whose jobs were likely to bring them into contact with autistic people.

While around a third of those taking part thought that their organisations did a reasonable job on specific staff training, they scored them less well on other aspects of service provision and there were plenty of other suggestions for how organisations could improve.