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‘More research for autism,’ say nurses across disciplines

Increase research into autism spectrum conditions, urge nurses.
Kevin_Hickson

Increase research into autism spectrum conditions, urge nurses.

Devon mental health and learning disability nurse Kevin Hickson said government policies affecting people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) should be underpinned by robust research evidence.

During a debate at RCN congress in Liverpool, Mr Hickson asked nurses to vote for a resolution compelling the RCN to commission research into this area.

Although the vote failed amid reservations about whether this is the RCNs remit, there appeared to be broad support from nurses for further research.

Learning disability nurse Holly Phillips said the need for research into autism is essential and affects nurses across all specialties.

Ongoing research can provide us with the evidence and backing for each of our nurses not just for learning disabilities or mental health nurses, but for everyone.

Increase research into autism spectrum conditions, urge nurses.

Kevin_Hickson
Kevin Hickson speaking at RCN congress. Picture: John Houlihan

Devon mental health and learning disability nurse Kevin Hickson said government policies affecting people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) should be underpinned by robust research evidence.

During a debate at RCN congress in Liverpool, Mr Hickson asked nurses to vote for a resolution compelling the RCN to commission research into this area.

Although the vote failed amid reservations about whether this is the RCN’s remit, there appeared to be broad support from nurses for further research.

Learning disability nurse Holly Phillips said the need for research into autism is essential and affects nurses across all specialties.

‘Ongoing research can provide us with the evidence and backing for each of our nurses – not just for learning disabilities or mental health nurses, but for everyone.’ 

Ms Phillips said research would help registered nurses access appropriate training, post-graduate courses and offer opportunities for research.

‘But most importantly [it would enable] people with autism to access the right services, and give them the right therapies and interventions.’

Autism training

Ms Phillips added that, as a newly qualified learning disability nurse, she received only one day of autism training and specific studies a year with no essays or modules.

She said: ‘Through my placements I saw the difficulties for adults with autism who were struggling to find a service that would accept ASD as a singular diagnosis in their criteria for access.

‘Now, in my career as a children’s complex needs nurse, I see the difficulties for children, teenagers and their families trying to access our service or transfer into appropriate services on a singular diagnosis.’

Infection control nurse Nykoma Hamilton said she has a son with global developmental delay, ADHD and sensory processing issues. 

Ms Hamilton said she was concerned about support in a future transition to adult services, because of a lack of resources for people who cannot be categorised as having learning disabilities.

She asked: ‘What resources will there be for patients for whom it is not a learning disability issue, who have a high IQ but who may have significant sensory challenges? 

‘Look at cuts to nurse training – how many resources will there be?

‘Autism is not new. We need to stand up and get research involved. 

‘We have a vast amount of experience in this room, but a vast number of challenges.’

Funding

University of Derby nursing student Rehana Allison also agreed nursing students should learn about ASD during their studies. 

‘If I did not have a son with Asperger syndrome, [I would not know about the subject]. Students have had no input or training about autism or the autistic spectrum. 

‘There is a lot of ASD out there; it’s not an isolated thing.

‘It should be taught to students from beginning of training so they can put [what they have learned] into practice.’

RCN public health forum nurse Linda Bailey acknowledged that learning more about ASD is important, but said it is not ‘the business of the RCN'’ to find money for specific research. 

She said: ‘There are a lot of important conditions we don’t know enough about that we need to research.’


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