Every autistic person is different - Ask me how I need to be supported
The NHS has 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.
No one's experience of autism is the same.
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.
How will these resources help?
- The suite of materials 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 below 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. CNWL is working to have one version of this passport that all services can use in the NHS.
- Training will soon be available on this topic and the links added to this page.
- If you feel something is missing please tell us at email@example.com
Autistic people share their experiences of attending an NHS appointment and explain how NHS staff can help in this video.
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.
Autism is not a mental health condition, nor is it a learning disability, although autistic people are more prone to mental health problems than the general population. Autism is a distinct way of seeing and engaging with the world, which can be disabling in the impact it has on people who are trying to navigate a space that is not designed for them.
All autistic people are entitled to reasonable adjustments to enable them to access services equitably. Using the autism flag on the clinical system can help to identify that people may require reasonable adjustments and identify what these adjustments might be. Information about common reasonable adjustments is available in the Reasonable Adjustments section and this can be used as a resource to help people generate ideas about the adjustments that they might find useful as autistic people may find it difficult to generate suggestions without prompts.
- An overview of autism - https://www.autism.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/what-is-autism
- General advice and guidance relating to autism https://www.autism.org.uk/advice-and-guidance
Social media graphics
Video from experts by experience
Available to order
We can supply printed copies or print ready files of the following items
Fold out card
Pop up banners
- Pop up banner set
This is similar to the banners but a large exhibition banner - we can send over print ready files for this on request.
About these materials and how to order
This page is created and managed by Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, working together with HACS and an Expert by Experience Group on the content and resources.
We hope all partners and colleagues in the NHS and health and social care find these materials useful. We'll add to this page when more resources are created. You can download the materials from this page directly. If you would like some printed copies please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Training will also soon be available on this topic. CNWL staff will be able to find that training on our learning and development zone.
‘My Health Passport’ is a resource for autistic people who might need NHS care or treatment.
The passport is designed to help autistic people to communicate their needs to doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. It was developed by Baroness Angela Browning – an National Autistic Society Vice President – in collaboration with The National Autistic Society.
It was independently reviewed in 2017 and updated following comments by autistic people and professionals about how they were using it or wanted to use it.
It's important to read someone's passport if they have one as autistic people can become non-speaking during times of stress and their ability to tell you something might change within the time-span of an appointment and/or waiting time.
A briefer version of the health passport is available. It's designed to help autistic people to communicate their social and communication needs to healthcare professionals.
Download it here (PDF)
The full Health Passport is below
Download the autism health passport (PDF)
Before making your passport, please read our guidance to assist you in completing and using it.
Download the autism health passport guidance (PDF)
- complete the passport online and print it out; or
- print it out and complete in writing.
Once you have completed the passport, you should either:
- staple the pages together to form a booklet; or
- keep them in a clear plastic folder.
You might find it useful to make a spare copy for your own records.
When you have completed your passport, take it with you whenever you visit hospital and show it to the doctors, nurses and any other healthcare professionals you come into contact with.
When admitted to hospital for treatment overnight or for a long stay, you should:
- give the passport to the doctor or nurse responsible for your care
- ask them to make sure the passport is kept with the patient notes at the end of your bed.
The passport is endorsed by the Department of Health and promoted by NHS England. It is one of the projects referenced in the adult autism strategy, Think Autism.
NICE guidelines suggest that autism assessment should be considered when a person has:
One or more of the following:
- persistent difficulties in social interaction
- persistent difficulties in social communication
- stereotypic (rigid and repetitive) behaviours, resistance to change or restricted interests, and
One or more of the following:
- problems in obtaining or sustaining employment or education
- difficulties in initiating or sustaining social relationships
- previous or current contact with mental health or learning disability services
- a history of a neurodevelopmental condition (including learning disabilities and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) or mental disorder.
The full NICE guidelines for adults are available on their website.
Significant sensory hyper- or hypo- sensitivities are also extremely common in autistic people
Processing everyday sensory information can be difficult for autistic people. Any of their senses may be over- or under-sensitive, or both, at different times. These sensory differences can affect how they feel and act, and can have a profound effect on a person’s life.
Below is a guide to understand autism, the person and how to help.
Download the guide (opens pdf)
A checklist for use by professionals when working with autistic people, to identify sensory differences and strategies for supporting them accordingly.
Download it here (opens pdf)
Adapted from the National Autistic Society website sensory guide, below are some tips for communicating with an autistic person.
Download the short guide (opens pdf)
Common Reasonable Adjustments
Guidance on common reasonable adjustments for autistic people accessing services.
Download it here (opens pdf)
With huge thanks to the Experts by Experience group at HACS for featuring in these materials and sharing their experiences.