Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

NHS England launches online autism support centre for families and carers

A new website has been launched by NHS England in a bid to ensure autistic people, their families and carers can easily access support when they need it.

Autism Central is a new, free education programme which aims to build knowledge and understanding of autism, and empower families to advocate for autistic people to ensure they get the right care and support.

The website has information on topics such as diagnosis, employment and mental health, and signposts users to resources from partners (such as the National Autistic Society) and other trusted sources.

Workshops led by families with lived experience

Autistic people and their families will also be able to access one-to-one and group sessions, which are delivered by parents and carers of autistic people who have been trained to share their knowledge and experience with others, as peer educators.

There is also a regional hub which enables users to find sessions in their area, such as workshops, drop-in sessions and coffee mornings, where they can access further personal stories from other parents and carers.

Philippa Spicer, Senior Responsible Offer for Learning Disability and Autism – Workforce, Training and Education at NHS England, says that talking to others with similar experiences helps to make people feel “understood” and get the help they need.

“Autism Central will work with families and carers of autistic people to become peer educators who will facilitate education and share their knowledge with others. They are here to listen, offer guidance, and tell others about services that are available in the local area,” she added.

Lack of resources to guide family members and carers

NHS England say Autism Central is the latest example of the health service’s commitment to improving health outcomes for autistic people.

Tom Cahill, National Director for Learning Disability and Autism at NHS England says sharing the experiences of autistic people, families and carers with their peers, will help to “benefit and improve the quality of care and support.”

Ange Neale decided to become a peer educator for Autism Central after struggling to access support for her own child.

She said: “Following my children’s diagnosis, I found little support or understanding. Now I have experience and knowledge from my own family, I want to support and encourage other parents and carers, empowering them in their journey.”

The programme has nine partners, including the National Autistic Society, Ambitious about Autism, Autism Alliance, Autism Education Trust, Autistica, British Institute of Learning Disabilities (BILD), Contact, Great Minds Together and the National Network of Parent Carer Forums.

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