Enablement project for autistic adults

In this article Ute Vann and Sandra Gasson, from Kent County Council, discuss a project that is assessing the effectiveness of a specialist enablement service for autistic adults. The service uses a range of occupational therapy approaches.

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Enablement project for autistic adults

Author: Ute Vann, Sandra Gasson

The Kent Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASC) Team is a Kent County Council social care service for adults with high-functioning autism. The ASC Team provides services to adults aged 18 years and over with autism, including Asperger’s syndrome, but without learning disabilities. The services offered include:

  • Community Care assessment
  • short term interventions
  • longer term support planning
  • and information, advice and guidance


At its inception the service did not include provision of an occupational therapy support such as enablement.  Enablement is a preventative intervention which aims to improve outcomes for vulnerable people, and is provided as a generic service within Kent County Council.

It is an intensive, short term, targeted intervention that assists individuals to regain, maintain or develop daily living skills, and the confidence to carry these out to the best of their ability. A review of the ASC Team’s first year of operation identified the need for more specialist enablement for individuals on the autistic spectrum. The aim is to support them with personalised interventions that improve their functioning in all aspects of everyday living.

How the service works

Funding for specialist enablement has been agreed for a period of two years and is provided by the ASC Team. Specialist enablement takes place over a 12 week period and involves working one-to-one with individuals on agreed meaningful goals identified by the client, such as:

  • self-care tasks
  • healthy lifestyle choices
  • accessing the wider community
  • and self-management support through a range of strategies and approaches

Areas of intervention are identified using the Spectrum Star, an outcome measurement tool developed by Brookdale. The Occupational Therapist and individual use the tool together when identifying goals.

In addition to this, specialist standardised and non-standardised assessments such as Assessment of Motor and Processing Skills (AMPS), sensory profiles and interest checklists (part of the Model of Human Occupation, or MOHO, set) are used as a benchmark for interventions.

Spectrum Star, Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem questionnaire and a carer’s questionnaire (if individuals agree to carers being involved) are used to measure outcomes.  At any stage during the 12 week period the ASC Team has enough resources to work with 9 people. Case managers can suggest individuals join the project if they meet the eligibility criteria and have undergone a needs assessment.

Early indications

It is too early in the lifetime of the project to identify specific outcomes or future likely developments. Early indications however do suggest that many individuals benefit from the intervention.

Some difficulties we have encountered so far are where individuals have co-morbidities, for example unmanaged ADHD. Other difficulties include being unable to access the wider environment because of certain conditions imposed on their movements.

Research project

The ASC Team has been granted approval by the National Social Care Research Ethics Committee to run the project as formal research. To evaluate the intervention’s effectiveness we are using a range of measures to collate data.

These measurements will be taken at various times during the intervention - beginning, 24 week stage and at the end. This allows us to capture a longitudinal element to see if improvements (if any) have been sustained. We aim to publicise the results widely when the research project is completed.

Further reading

Model of Human Occupation

Rosenberg's Self-Esteem Questionnaire

Spectrum Star

Date added: 23 November 2015