THOUSANDS of children with autism may needlessly face mental health problems in the future, warns a new campaign.
According to the You Need to Know campaigned – launched this week by the National Autistic Society (NAS) – a high proportion of children who have autism suffer because the NHS dos not suffficiently know how to help them.
And their new campaign aims to highlight the current mental health system, which they say fails two-thirds of children with autism and can make their mental health worsen.
The campaign has been backed by Stalybridge and Hyde MP Jonathan Reynolds.
He said: “We all need to know that by giving children with autism the understanding and support they need, we help promote their health and happiness.
“Too many are currently developing preventable mental health problems and find themselves up against a broken system that doesn’t understand them or their needs. It is a tragic waste of their potential.”
The NAS highlight research that suggests that more than 70 per cent of children with autism have a mental health problem, such as depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and other anxiety disorders.
Autism is a complex disability and so when mental health problems do develop in children with the condition they are much harder to recognise, diagnose and treat without appropriate knowledge.
They say they are often dismissed as an unfortunate, but unavoidable side effect of having autism.
Following the launch of the campaign, NAS chief executive Mark Lever said: “All too often children with autism receive inappropriate, ineffectual and sometimes harmful treatment of their mental health problems.
“This has a devastating effect on families many of whom develop their own mental health problems as a result.
“Parents and professionals alike are crying out for more autism support and so we are delighted to have the backing of Jonathan Reynolds MP. The NHS needs to know how to help, and the government needs to know it can’t wait.”
A survey of more than 450 parents for the You Need to Know campaign has highlighted the experience of parents and children.
According to the survey 43 per cent of parents whose children are currently registered with mental health services said their child’s mental health had got worse because they could not get the services they needed
And more than half of parents said they did not think that mental health services know how to communicate with their child
Nine out of ten parents said that the mental health problems their child faced had had a negative impact on their own mental health and that of the whole family.
Those parents who said they had been able to get specialist autism help were twice as likely to say their child’s mental health had improved.
As part of the campaign the NAS is calling for the government to act now to make mental health services work for children with autism and change their future. This includes autism training for mental health professionals and access to specialist autism support in every area.
Published June 10, 2010