Monday, 15 October 2018

Autism in Adults with BBC Doctors

The recent story line on BBC Doctors following the struggles of foster son James, played by Daniel Kerr, has been a difficult watch. It has been at times harrowing, heartbreaking and thought-provoking, but most of all it has been a joy to behold. The acting has been superb and the story lines have really highlighted some very important points about the care system and the challenges that young people face when they find themselves on the autistic spectrum. Autism is a struggle a lot of parents face, but it doesn't go away when the child gets older and is expected to fend for themselves.

The story so far, if you haven't managed to catch it, is that young James, who was previously fostered by Karen and Rob, had been set up in his own bedsit by the care system on reaching 18. He managed to get himself a job, with Karen and Rob's support, in a motor garage and seemed to be doing well. Then he disappeared. The care system had no idea where he was and it was Karen who eventually found him living rough on the streets after being bullied out of his bedsit and losing his job. She took him back in and finally managed to get him properly assessed, where it was discovered he was autistic. This had previously gone unnoticed, because he had several different foster carers. The battle that James is facing now, is that there is limited support for adults with difficulties such as Autism and no support for young people once they have left care, even if the settlement attempt fails. The support varies from area to area, as is often the case with local authority-run services, but as with a lot of public services, they are woefully underfunded and people, young and old, are still slipping under the radar.

An autism diagnosis most often begins with the parents, after all, they know their child best. However the journey from suspecting all is not as it should be, to getting the support and help your child needs can be a long and arduous one. My friend Laura, from My Life As a Mummy told me this; "

"The earlier you are diagnosed the easier it is to get the support. With my youngest he was diagnosed at 3. Because he was so blatantly autistic, we skipped the ADOS and went straight for diagnosis. And support was put in place immediately. His EHCP was finalised and he got into a SEN school with no problem. My 8 year old is in mainstream and has only just been diagnosed. But because he is high functioning, he is very academic but struggles socially. I’ve been told unofficially there is going to be a battle to get him support let alone an EHCP because the funding just isn’t there. So I will have a fight on my hands with getting him support. So I’m waiting for the paediatrician to ‘sign off’ his autism and then the battle begins."

This is one area of particular difficulty which comes up a lot. When a child is high functioning, there sometimes seems to be less urgency to get the support in place, perhaps because it's not so 'obvious'. It's much easier to see where a child is struggling academically, but social issues can be a big problem too, and I've read countless stories of broken-hearted children and parents where the child can't make friends and is lonely or bullied. Without specific allocated help, the staff at the school are limited in what they can do. There are a few lunchtime staff to sometimes hundreds of children, so there isn't the time or resources to support an individual to practice their social skills as much as they would like. I used to be a dinner lady and it's not always easy when there are several children needing different kinds of help at the same time. An Education, Help and Care Plan (EHCP) would provide the funding and therefore the additional resources required, such as a teaching assistant, who could support the child to make friends or hone their social skills, but they are hard to come by, particularly when the 'evidence' is harder to see.

In the case of the fictional, but oh-so-realistic, James, he comes across as being a bit shy and quiet, which wouldn't necessarily be picked up, unless someone was to really fight his corner, which, because he was in care and passed between foster carers, no one did. It's a sad story, because now he is 18 and needs a job and independence, but has never had the support to facilitate that. In the story it is looking unlikely that he will get much support now and this is why it is so important to make sure that these young people receive the help they need as soon as possible. It shouldn't be a battle, it should be a right that every child who needs an autism assessment gets one and then the right support is provided. I know that money is tight, particularly in the education sector, but I don't want to hear about any other children, or adults going through the trauma of being a social outcast and feeling like it's all their fault, simply because they weren't given the help they needed. Even just the diagnosis can change a person's life, because they suddenly realise that they are not wrong, or broken, there's a perfectly good explanation why they see things differently.

You can catch up with previous episodes on BBC iPlayer and the story continues weekdays at 1.45pm. I've been really pleased to see the subject of Autism and the effects of delayed diagnosis highlighted in a TV soap opera. I hope it will lead to more people seeking help and also draw attention to the funding issues and other struggles many people face in dealing with a diagnosis. It's certainly something that needs be addressed, since it's hard enough for sufferers and parents to cope with the challenges autism brings, without making it even more difficult to get the recognition and help that they need.



  1. What a fantastic post! Going to show this to a friend at work who is struggling with their Autistic kid at the moment at home.

  2. I have friends with autistic children and this is always a concern they raise: what will happen once the children become adults and have to become independent? I agree that getting help as soon as possible is incredibly important.

  3. This was such an interesting read. Thank you for sharing this and showing others it’s okay to talk about x

  4. I had heard it was going to start showing soon but not yet had chance to see it, I think it will teach most of us more about autism as most of us only think children and not adults

  5. Love posts like this, that raise awareness of autism and highlighting a show that will do the same to the masses. May watch this if I get time xx

  6. I have a friend who is going through this right now so will pass the link to this post over in the hope of giving her a bit of light !

  7. Good you are raising awareness about this issue. There should be more funding in place to help those that need it.

  8. I love Doctors and I think they have treated this story briliantly and it is a great way to raise awareness

  9. What a brilliant way of recognition of autism in adults. You don’t hear many people talking about it


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