This section of the Toolkit aims to cover the range and scope of awareness raising, training and professional development that is available and accessible to those commissioning and those practitioners being commissioned to deliver mental health services and support for children and young people who are or may be on the autism spectrum.
The purpose is to signpost to national and local delivery partners and agencies of training or e-learning.
According to the NAS report ‘Scrutinising Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services for Children with Autism’ (2010):
“CAMHS staff need to be able to identify potential signs of autism in children and adapt behaviour (particularly communication) accordingly. For example, make reasonable adjustments such as flexibility in the duration, frequency or location of sessions, in line with the Equality Act.
Providing mental health support to a child with autism is a specialist skill. Many therapies and interventions rely on through processes and communication techniques that do not make sense to children with autism and only skilful adaption can make them relevant and useful.
An autism specialist can:
The report states that 71% of children with autism develop mental health problems such as depression, anxiety disorders and obsessive compulsive disorders. Government research has also found that a quarter of children with autism had self-harmed or had suicidal thoughts; and Child health mapping shows that 1 in every 10 children who use Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) have autism – over 10,000 children each year.
The NHS England: ‘Model Specification for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services: Targeted and Specialist levels report’ (2015) is intended to support the commissioning of targeted and specialist services and provides a useful overview. The summary on page 12 in the report lists a number of websites listing resources that are also available for commissioners and service providers.
It became clear when undertaking the research into specific autism training for CAMHS staff that different local areas and CCGs have different approaches to the training being offered or provided:
This review established that there was no clear universal course for Tiers 1, 2 3 or 4 in autism training for CAMHS staff.
On reviewing training for Tiers 2 and above there is no clear further education qualification for professionals working in the field or for higher level Tiers working with complex individuals.
Skills for Health / Skills for Care developed the “Autism Skills and knowledge list for workers in generic social care and health services” – this provides a self-assessment checklist for workers and services and what levels of ‘autism understanding’ different tiers of CAMHS workers should have.
Tier 1 of CAMHS is very general encompassing general staff in all sorts of spheres from nursing – GPs to social care staff / social workers / therapists – all sorts / educationalists etc. (many of whom cover autism in one way or another).
Health England along with Skills for Care have developed with the Department of Health an Autism Awareness Learning Resources list which signposts to the following:
Autism Skills and Knowledge List, for workers in generic social care and health services:
Implementing the autism skills and knowledge list through staff training and development – for those who plan, commission and deliver workforce development for workers in generic health and social care services.
Getting it right for people with autism – the research behind the Autism Skills and Knowledge List