AFTER the Autism Act became law in 2009, when I introduced this as a Private Member’s Bill, I have monitored its implementation closely. It was the first ever such Bill to address the needs of a specific disability, so part of the ongoing task is to ensure that adults and children with autism receive the help they need.

The phrase “joined up thinking” has become a cliché, but it really does apply to the way that we look at providing services for people with autism.

Earlier this July I attended a conference in Westminster on improving autism care and delivering the revised national strategy for adults with autism. The refreshed strategy was drawn up as the result of a review after the Act had been operating for five years.

The National Autistic Society has launched an initiative – Think Autism – and it reminds us that there is a need for public awareness of autism. People with this disability often feel separated from the community. There can be a lack of understanding and as it is a disability which is not immediately physically obvious, perhaps in the bustle of everyday life people do not always recognise that there are challenges for people with autism, who can have specific social and communications needs.

At the time of that Westminster conference, I was pleased to hear that there is a launch of a new ‘hospital passport’, so that people with autism are helped through the process of going into hospital, whether for routine or emergency treatment. Going to hospital can sometimes cause people with autism distress, or there may be misunderstandings between the patient and those caring for them.

I hope that this new ‘passport’ will alert people to the needs of those with autism and I was glad, when I raised the introduction at Prime Minister’s Questions on 16 July, that the Prime Minister welcomed the innovation.

Here is a link to the National Autistic Society website which contains a link about the hospital ‘passport’. It is a short booklet designed to help people with autism, their families and carers, so they can communicate their needs to medical staff when they go into hospital.