Posted on: 4 April 2023

CNWL is launching new coproduced materials to help all staff to better support Autistic people when the they attend an appointment or use services.

We have been working closely with Autistic People and the charity HACs - Hillingdon Autistic Care and Support - to raise awareness of the difficulties autistic people face when they attend an appointment and the importance of asking an autistic person how they need to be supported when they visit services.

Why are these materials launching now? 

April is Autism Acceptance Month and World Autism Awareness Day on 2 April. We’re dedicating the month to improving acceptance for autistic people by launching materials and resources for staff to use in all services. 

The toolkit can be downloaded online on the new dedicated webpage: You can also find them here on this page

We hope these new resources will support health and social care professionals to better understand the needs of someone with autism, recognise the signs that someone may need support and then encourage staff to ask about any reasonable adjustments they may need to make to better support them. Sometimes someone may not need any additional support or may not know what they need; these resources will help in those situations too.

What is Autism?

Autism is found in around 700,000 people in the United Kingdom; that’s 1 in every 100 people. Autistic people communicate and interact socially in different ways to non-autistic people, and may require routines or behave in repetitive ways. Autistic people are often very sensitive to sensory information in the environment, and environmental factors can significantly impact autistic people's ability to engage with healthcare services. Every autistic person will express their neurodivergence differently and may present differently across different settings and on different days. 

Every autistic person is different; ask them how they need to be supported. No one's experience of autism is the same.

Autism is a hidden disability. You can’t tell someone is autistic by the way they look, but possibly through their behaviours. Autistic people are often misunderstood and may require support with things like communication, interaction with others, using their imagination, being flexible and feeling overwhelmed by activity in the world around them.

How will these resources help? 

The materials now available on this page are for healthcare professionals.

  • We hope they will create more awareness of the needs of autistic people in NHS services.
  • We found through our Lived Experience group that small adjustments can make a huge difference. 
  • The materials encourage staff to 'Ask' what someone needs to make them feel more comfortable when they attend an appointment. 
  • They should help you to better understand the needs of autistic people and consider the questions to ask someone who is autistic and the reasonable adjustments they may need to support their sensory needs. If they don't know what adjustments they need then the health passport in the resources below is there to help.
  • The resources can be used in all NHS services. Continuity is important especially use of the Health Passport (sometimes called the Autism Passport) where adjustments can be recorded together with the service user. You should read this with them.
  • More training will soon be available on this topic and the links added to the new page. 

Autistic people share their experiences of attending an NHS appointment and explain how NHS staff can help in this video 

With huge thanks to the Lived Experience Group and HACS for featuring in these materials and sharing their experiences.