Caring for Autism within the Community

Mental health expert Noel McDermott  looks at the increase in the re-institutionalisation of autism care for children and the damaging effects of this. Many families feel left adrift whilst waiting for and after an autism diagnosis, here mental health expert Noel McDermott looks at how developing resilience through community networks can help families affected by autism and prevent unnecessary admissions.

Noel comments: “For parents of autistic children, we are seeing an increase in inappropriate institutional care if they don’t accept what they see as sub optimal placements that are offered by local authorities. The grief and trauma that families face watching their disabled family member deteriorate is difficult to explain but they also face the impossibility of finding services to help them cope and manage. Families are ground down with their caring responsibilities, facing worse outcomes for themselves in terms of their psychological, physical, financial, employment, social, housing etc health and wellbeing*.  The impact on children of having caring responsibilities are well known and the general failure to provide services for children in need leads to failures of the siblings also. There is an extremely unhelpful series of crisis that families face gradually worsening”. 

The number of autistic people detained through the mental health act has increased by over 100% since 2015 and people with autism now represent 66% of the mental health hospital population, an increase from 38% in 2015**. 

The impact of long-term institutional care is devastating on those with autism, and it can be seen in the increased use of high levels of medication, restraint, and seclusion in these institutions. Increased levels of stereotypic behaviours have been researched in children*** as a consequence of institutional care and they have the vicious cycle impact of being antisocial and anti-developmental in nature leading to community breakdown in settings that are not sufficiently resourced to support a step down from institution to community.

Building resilience as a parent of a child with autism

Here Noel looks at how developing resilience through community networks can help families affected by autism.

  • When you’re a parent of a child with autism, life can feel even more challenging. Reach out to online forums and local support groups for greater knowledge and understanding about the condition, this will provide a wealth of information and emotional support.
  • A support network is crucial and will help build resilience, making you feel more supported as a family; don’t be afraid talk to and ask for help from friends, family members, therapists, support groups and online autistic community, who understand the challenges you are facing. Being able to share your experiences will help you feel less isolated and more supported.
  • Look into what community support that is available for your family, such as community programs, support groups, and educational initiatives. Inclusive environments which provide opportunities for social interaction and support will benefit everyone.
  • It’s important to learn how to adapt, process and recover from challenges and testing situations. This can be achieved through therapy, problem-solving and self-reflection.

Mental health expert Noel McDermott is a psychotherapist and dramatherapist with over 30 years’ work within the health, social care, education, and criminal justice fields. His company Mental Health Works provides unique mental health services for the public and other organisations. Mental Health Works offers in situ health care and will source, identify and co-ordinate personalised teams to meet your needs –