News

Children with autism failed by health service, say nursing experts

Healthcare services are leaving children with autism and their families without the vital support they need, according to the RCN.
Autism

Healthcare services are leaving children with autism and their families without the vital support they need, according to the RCN.

At the annual RCN children and young peoples nursing conference on May 25, nursing experts called for improvements to the care of children with autism in hospitals and in the community.

About 1% of children in the UK have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a condition that affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour. However, because all areas of the health service are being pushed to breaking point, support for such children is dwindling, the college warns.

Experts at the conference argued that hospital staff often have difficulties communicating with children with autism and that many need more training in this area. Signage and lighting can also cause difficulty for children with ASD.

Meanwhile, cuts to community services and a severe

Healthcare services are leaving children with autism and their families without the vital support they need, according to the RCN.

Autism
Picture: iStock

At the annual RCN children and young people’s nursing conference on May 25, nursing experts called for improvements to the care of children with autism in hospitals and in the community.

About 1% of children in the UK have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a condition that affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour. However, because all areas of the health service are being pushed to breaking point, support for such children is dwindling, the college warns.

Experts at the conference argued that hospital staff often have difficulties communicating with children with autism and that many need more training in this area. Signage and lighting can also cause difficulty for children with ASD. 

Meanwhile, cuts to community services and a severe drop in the number of learning disability nurses have left many without care outside of hospital.

With more than one third of learning disability nurses cut since 2010 and fewer in training than ever before, an increasing number of children with ASD cannot access the support they need.

Specialist education

Parents are rarely given the help they need after their children’s diagnosis, the RCN said, but instead must cope without counselling, family support groups or specialist education.

Rob Jenkins is a learning disability nurse whose seven year-old grandson, Theo, has ASD.

Mr Jenkins said:‘Right now, there seems to be no support for children with ASD or their parents. Learning disability nurses in our area support adults and children’s nurses become involved only if a child is physically ill.

‘My daughter is a single parent and she is struggling to cope with Theo while holding down a job as a neo-natal nurse. Theo rarely keeps still and often wakes her in the night in a hyperactive state.

‘As grandparents, we have him with us for about half of every week, day and night, and although he brings so much joy we find him challenging at times.

Opportunities

‘I am fearful about his future; there seem to be few options for him when he leaves school.

‘Services are placing too much emphasis on sickness and far too little on enabling children to live positive, healthy lives.’

RCN professional lead for children and young people’s nursing Fiona Smith said: ‘Children with autism are being severely let down by the sheer lack of support that is available to them.

‘Right now, the health services don’t take this condition seriously enough. Support is inconsistent and far too many families are being left to fend for themselves.

‘Nursing staff across health services have a huge role to play in helping children with autism and their families. However, we need the staff and the training to provide the care that is so vitally needed.’


In other news

Sign up to continue reading for FREE

OR

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to nursing standard.com and the Nursing Standard app
  • Monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs