Supporting autistic adults

James Lang, The National Autistic Society Centre Strategic Lead, explains how their adult services aim to offer flexible support designed around the needs of the people they support. 

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Author: James Lang

Supporting autistic adults

Within The National Autistic Society (NAS) we have developed a new range of support for autistic adults to replace our existing day services. Our adult services had grown organically over the years and it was apparent that there wasn’t always a standardised approach being used across all locations.

To address this we consulted with autistic adults, commissioners, local authorities and other stakeholders to review existing services and identify any gaps in provision.  One of the outcomes of this consultation was that the term day service no longer felt relevant and after further consultation we amended all NAS day services to The National Autistic Society Centres. 

Internally we worked on producing more standardised documentation and guidance to apply to all our new centres. This new standardised approach means all our services across the UK have a new consistent framework to work within and ensures a quality standard that can be monitored against and across all services. 

What the Centres’ offer

Our Centres are offering extended opening hours to enable autistic adults to find support at the times they require it. Through a range of new services (outlined in the next section), our Centres hope to extend their reach to include all autistic adults, particularly those who before now have been unable to find a service which meets their needs.

The Centres aim to ensure that services are designed around the individual needs of the people we support and that they decide which areas of their lives our support focuses on.  To ensure this we have intrinsically linked three key approaches.

Outcomes Framework

The Outcomes framework enables a person we support to identify and develop their own Personalised Outcomes Plan, which identifies what an individual wants to achieve through our support, and sets out how this will be achieved. The Outcomes Framework then sets out the documentation which supports the measuring, evidencing and monitoring of an individual’s outcomes, and provides the rationale behind the modules an individual is participating in during the Modular Learning Programme.

Module Framework

The Module Framework (used within the Modular Learning Programme) sets out the documentation which supports our staff in delivering modules/sessions effectively and, through linking with the Outcomes Framework, ensures the sessions we deliver directly link to the individuals personal outcomes. 

The modules we offer cover a range of subjects such as Travel Training, Communication, Art, Employment Skills, Sensory and many others which support autistic adults in a variety of ways such as budgeting, planning, flexible thinking and social communication. The sessions within each module are written to meet the needs of the individual and to support them in working toward their outcomes. 

Support Plans

Personal Support Plans identify and record the areas in which an individual needs support, the way in which they would like the support provided to them and how that support is delivered in practice. Support plans feed into and inform the development of personalised outcomes plans. 

By linking these together we ensure our values and approaches are consistent across all Centres. 

Services for autistic adults

1. Breakfast Club 

Our Breakfast Club enables family members to bring people we support to the Centre on their way to work. Staff support individuals to prepare their own breakfast and to eat together in a social and supportive environment. This service is particularly beneficial to people we support who need the time to transition into our Modular Learning Programme which takes place during traditional “day service” hours, starting at 9 or 9.30am. By opening our Centres earlier to incorporate this service we can meet the individual needs of people we support.

2. Modular Learning Programme

Our Modular Learning Programme uses the traditional “day service” hours to provide an outcome-led service which meets the specific needs of each person we support. This is achieved through the development of the Personalised Outcomes Plan, which is used alongside the individual’s Personal Support Plan to identify specific modules best suited in supporting them. This offers each person we support a day of meaningful and beneficial module sessions. 

3. Supper Club

Our Supper Club is an extension of our Modular Learning Programme. Staff support individuals to prepare a light meal and to eat together in a social and supportive environment. This is particularly beneficial to family members who may need more time before collecting people we support after work.

4. Evening Groups

Our Evening Groups can be accessed by all autistic adults in the community. Evening Groups are held in two hour sessions which are operated by support staff and where the content is chosen by the autistic adults who attend them. Depending on what needs are identified in the area, evening groups may consist of sessions such as: social groups, short-term courses, family support groups, quiz nights, fitness and exercise groups, and drama groups etc.

5. 1:1 Support Sessions

Our 1:1 Support Sessions are also available during the Centres opening hours and at times which meet the needs of an individual. This means that autistic adults who are in employment or who are at university have the opportunity to still access support. It also means that support can be focused around their specific needs and provided by a staff member with the specific knowledge base in the required area of support. Sessions are booked in 1 or 2 hour slots in advance of the session.

6. Weekend Day experiences

On weekends we support people to pursue their interests and hobbies by going on a range of trips and visits. These might include trips to the seaside, walks in the country, visits to museums/theatres/cinemas, boat trips, steam train rides etc. A programme of events can be planned with the people we support on the day out.

The services offered at The National Autistic Society Centres are designed to be flexible and are offered at different days and times according to the needs of the people we support.

Further information

The National Autistic Society - In the community

Date added: 8 January 2018