Most autism practice not supported by good evidence, finds study

The report finds that most current policy and practice is not supported by good quality evidence of benefit and cost-effectiveness. This leads to a loss of opportunities to substantially improve quality of life for autistic children and adults and their families whilst also potentially reducing costs. “A great deal more could and should be done to generate evidence to shape policy and improve practice in autism.”, the report argues.

Filling knowledge gaps

The National Autism Project, funded by The Shirley Foundation, has been bringing together “evidence on what works well for autistic people and what makes economic sense”. The report calls for urgent investment in good quality research focused on filling gaps in our knowledge of which types of support are most effective by asking questions such as:

The project’s research, carried out by a team at the London School of Economics and Political Science, analysed existing evidence on a wide range of possible ‘interventions’ for autistic children and adults including: screening and diagnostic assessment; early interventions; social skills programmes; parent training and support: CBT for anxiety; employment support; health checks; personalised care and support (including personal budgets and circles of support); assistive and adaptive technologies; anti-stigma and anti-bullying work, and medication.

Key recommendations for social care

Many of the report’s policy recommendations, which were refined during workshops held in each of the four nations, are relevant to social care. They include:

Overall, the National Autism Project report argues that “better informed decision making and wiser allocation of resources” could reduce the negative personal, social and economic consequences of “the cumulative disadvantages experienced by many autistic people over their lives” and lead to an “autism dividend”.