With all of the year's most-read pieces examining how policy and practice can improve lives - often with the testimonies of lived experience - it's clear there is a hunger for constructive journalism. Whilst the often poor support faced by autistic and learning disabled people should be represented, we are almost always left with the question of "where do we go from here?".

Take a look at 2019's most-read pieces which go some way to address this question... 

 

1. 5 ways that the NHS ten-year plan will improve the care of people with learning disabilities and autism

Published only days into 2019, the NHS ten-year plan pledges to enact a number of initiatives to provide better quality care for learning disabled and autistic people. From increasing investment in community support to stopping over-medication, this news piece goes into more detail about five ways the plan aims to deliver care in an increasingly underfunded healthcare system.

"Over the next five years, national learning disability improvement standards will apply to every NHS-funded service to promote greater consistency".

2. Why the "high/low-functioning" labels are harmful to autistic people

Andy Burns (IndieAndy on YouTube) is an autistic content creator who uses his experiences to create educational videos. In this blog, he dissects why exactly applying functioning labels to autistic people is not only based upon often offensive - and untrue - neurotypical assumptions, but also fails to recognise every autistic person's skills and challenges.

"Just because someone is unable to speak through conventional methods, it does not mean that they have nothing to say".

3. Parents take Mental Capacity Act challenge to High Court

When a child turns 18 their parents no longer have the power to make decisions on behalf of them - this is handed over to professionals in the name of "best interests". Darren Devine speaks to the three parents who challenged this aspect of the Mental Capacity Act in the High Court. 

“The starting point should be the person themselves, who they want to support them and who they have strong relationships with".

4. A Beginner's Guide to Neurodiversity

Suzanne Comberousse is a freelance autism consultant and trainer. Here, she introduces the concept of neurodiversity beginning with the term's origins and ending with reconceptualising the idea of an autistic spectrum as being linear. 

"This gives a different perspective on autism "awareness” – is it enough, or should we be insisting on improving accessibility for autistic and other invisibly disabled people?"

5. Slimming World rolls out adaptations to make weight loss clubs more accessible

A study led by the University of Sheffield in partnership with weight-loss organisation Slimming World has found that there are a number of barriers preventing people with learning disabilities attending weight loss groups. This news piece highlights how moves such as producing easy-read materials and providing further training and support to weight management consultants could make losing weight more inclusive.

"The benefits of making weight-loss groups more accessible are much wider than the results seen on the scales".

6. Autistic young adults need appropriate work experience opportunities

Evelyn Ashford was so upset by the lack of meaningful training for her son that she opened a model railway shop for him to work at. She fought to ensure that work experience there formed part of his Education, Health, and Care Plan (EHCP). Here, she tells Darren Devine how she hopes her fight for her son can set a precedent that ensures those struggling to get work experience that engenders independence.

“At the moment, what’s happening in independent colleges is that there’s far too much emphasis on them making supported housing units".

7. NHS and social care staff to receive mandatory learning disability and autism training

Up to 2.8 million health and social care staff, from consultants to porters, who regularly have contact with patients or service users could be legally required to undertake special learning disability or autism training, under new Government proposals, welcomed by campaigners.

"This new mandatory autism training for all health and care staff in England could improve the health or even save the lives of hundreds of thousands of autistic people".

8. Charity launches accessible recipe videos for people with learning disabilities

Research shows that disabled people are more likely to have poor diets and not exercise enough. In fact, over 80% of adults with learning disabilities fail to meet official minimum recommended levels for physical activity. As part of a pioneering new project from the disability charity United Response, people with learning disabilities are making YouTube videos to help tackle obesity.

"It’s crucial we empower people to make informed choices".

9. Should "challenging behaviour" be used as a reason to limit community access?

When, if ever, should "challenging behaviour" be used as a reason to limit community access? How serious should episodes get before it’s okay to restrict community access? Darren Devine reports, speaking to chief executive of the Challenging Behaviour Foundation Vivien Cooper about how she trains new staff to best support her son in a community environment. 

"Sometimes, the reasons that they don’t take part in those activities are to do with staff or carers sometimes being scared of what might happen, sometimes not really understanding the behaviour and why it happens and not being able to adequately prevent it".

10. Community living settings: are they just institutions in another guise?

In the last four years, the number of people with learning disabilities and autism in long-stay hospitals has fallen by around 20%. But does changing the setting of care alter its nature when institutional routines endure? In this blog, Darren Devine speaks to a family who were promised a living situation free from institutional practices for their son but were left bitterly disappointed. 

“They’ve moved from a hospital setting to a non-hospital type institution in the community".