Over 1700 health and social care staff across Dorset have received new training to enable them to better support the autistic community.
The staff, who are all employed by Dorset Council, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, NHS Dorset, hospitals and community health providers took part in an autism training programme which is co-produced and co-delivered by Christchurch-based charity Autism Unlimited.
Autism Unlimited is a leading charity which provides education, training and supported living to children and young adults with autism from across the region.
Autism Unlimited has designed its training around the National Core capabilities Framework for Autism (Supporting autistic people and/or people with a learning disability – Skills for Health) with two stages:
Understanding Autism, which is an e-learning course teaching learners what autism is and how the autistic community experience the world.
And Autism Acceptance, a face-to-face session which equips learners with strategies and techniques so they can help autistic people feel included, understood and supported.
From 1 July 2022 a new legal requirement was introduced by the Health and Care Act 2022 that all registered health and social care providers must ensure their staff receive training in learning disability and autism appropriate to their role.
The Act requires a Code of Practice to be published (expected towards the end of 2023), which will reference the *Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training as meeting the minimum requirements of the Act.
Claire Causley, Training Manager at Autism Unlimited, said: “Autism is a neuro developmental condition which means an autistic person’s brain works differently.
“Autistic people may act in different ways to others and can sometimes find it difficult to communicate or interact with unfamiliar people in public areas which can be too loud, busy or new to them.
“As a result, accessing important health, care, financial or other support can be a daunting and stressful experience.
“During Autism Unlimited’s training programme learners are introduced to a range of different communication techniques and shown how to adapt the environment from a sensory perspective to allow an autistic person time to process the important information.”
Laura White, Learning Disability and Autism Programme Lead at NHS Dorset said: “It has been great to pilot an autism training offer to our health and social care workforce in Dorset.
“The project has provided many useful insights and learning points for the Dorset Integrated Care System to consider how we transition across to mobilising the national Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training for Learning Disability and Autism.
“It has been great to see the number of staff accessing the Autism Unlimited e-learning module over the course of the project and for those staff who were able to be released from their challenging front line roles to access the face to face sessions, sharing that they had refreshed their knowledge, learnt new things and were glad they had taken the time to attend and come away feeling inspired.”
Claire Causley added: “It is vital to increase understanding of autism.
“There are still many misconceptions about autism, mostly around how much it limits people’s lives. Because of this, we find that people who undertake our training appreciate how autism is another way that people are unique.”
She continued: “We want to teach people that flapping is as acceptable as smiling, ear defenders are normal and alternative communication devices are common, so everyone will know how to communicate with each other. Our aim is to educate, encourage empathy and successfully achieve autism acceptance.”
Following the success of the programme the charity hopes Autism Acceptance will continue to be made available to people who work in the local authority, health, care, education, the voluntary sector and parents or carers.
Organisations including Go South Coast, Gallaghers Insurance and Lighthouse Poole have also enlisted the training.
Autism Unlimited has also launched four other courses which have been designed and built in conjunction with its autistic community: Recruiting Autistic Talent, Workplace adjustments, Signalong Foundation and Signalong Essential Vocabulary.
For more details, visit the website https://www.autism-unlimited.org/support/training/
or call 01202 483360 (option 2).