Thursday, 11 October 2012

Autumn 2012 Roundup.

It has been a while since I last posted a blog and a great deal has happened at Resources for Autism and in the wider Autism world.

Perhaps the most significant thing that is about to happen is the new diagnostic criteria known as DSM-5. This is the first major change in the criteria for many years and is mostly very welcome. I say mostly because change usually involves some controversy and this is no exception. The best new element of the criteria is that, for the first time, sensory sensitivities become part of the recognised elements of autism.  We all know how crucial an understanding of the sensory world of someone on the spectrum is in helping to improve their quality of life and yet this has never been 'officially' part of the diagnosis process. That has now changed. Aspergers will no longer be a category of diagnosis but just a 'level' of autism. There will be three levels or bands based on 'severity'. This worries me, not on a clinical front, but on how these might be used in a time of financial restraint and scarce resources. I am something of a cynic and worry that some services may become only accessible for those with level 1 autism or extremely high need. Judge for yourselves by taking a look at the new criteria at http://www.dsm5.org/proposedrevisions/pages/proposedrevision.aspx?rid=94.

With Mr Osborne talking about yet more cuts to 'welfare' I remain very concerned about funding our future. It is easy for people to miss the fact that this general term covers everything that impacts on the lives of those in our society who need help and support. That includes those with autism and everyone with any disability. There seems to be a great blurring of what 'welfare cuts' mean in reality to huge numbers of people. It is not just to do with benefits, although talk of cutting these even further is immensely worrying for many disabled and non-disabled people, but it is also about reducing funding for services. I have heard from all the local authorities who buy our services that they are likely to be forced to cut the level of provision in 2013/14. Their financial year begins in April, which is when contracts should be renewed, and all are saying they do not yet know what their budgets will be but it is likely to be slashed. Whereas personalisation should mean more choice, individual budgets generally have such low levels of funding and such variable funding depending on where you live that many families find themselves unable to 'choose' what they would like. If funding is not available then the choice will reduce further as organisations close. Worrying indeed!

The good news is that Resources for Autism continues to grow and to provide for more and more people. We were lucky enough to gain a West Midlands Lottery bid to enable us to extend our services to adults in Birmingham and to those living outside of the Birmingham City boundaries generally which is wonderful and our team in the West Midlands have jumped at the chance to extend and grow what we do. Also in Birmingham our first Under 8's service gained OFSTED accreditation and is going from strength to strength.
We held a pilot residential holiday break for young people with high needs over the summer, offering 2 nights at a youth hostel base with loads of activities. It was a great success but very expensive to run so we are looking at the lessons learned so we can do more and better in the future.

In London our adult services have more than doubled in size in the last 3 months with a new 'Au Struck' social group opening  in Haringey, a confidence group developing in Islington, our 19 - 25 social group becoming more and more adventurous, so many multi-sports participants that we have had to split the group in two and a third adult art based social group about to open. The need for adults to have something fun, accepting and safe to take part in is evident in both London and Birmingham and we are rising to the challenge as best we can.

To round up, lots of positives, a bit of worry and a great deal to do. I will keep you posted and thank you for taking the time to read and to be interested in Resources for Autism. If you have any questions or suggestions, please do get in touch.

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