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Why autistic people have problems seeking healthcare!

The Westminster Commission on Autism, a cross-party, cross-sector group of Parliamentarians, autistic people, parents/carers, charities, academics and health professionals, has published a report “A Spectrum of Obstacles – An Inquiry into Access to Healthcare for Autistic People”, which you can  download here. They said:

“We think it is hard for professionals to understand autism because:

  • Every person on the autistic spectrum is different.
  • Autistic people often have sensitivity to lights, sounds, smells, tastes and touch. This means they can find it difficult to concentrate in hospitals or doctors’ surgeries.
  • Autistic people can find it very hard to tell the doctor what is wrong.
  • Autistic people do not always have someone to remind them to get help
    with their health.

There are some other things that make it difficult

  • Lots of autistic people also have a mental health condition. Health professionals do not always understand how to help an autistic person who has a mental health condition.
  • Autistic people often have other conditions such as ADHD or epilepsy. Doctors do not always understand these different conditions in autistic people.”

Also on the Westminster Commission on Autism website Helen Ellis, self-advocate, tells Parliamentarians why health system is a ‘Spectrum of Obstacles’ for autistic people.

See too this short video clip from the organisation and read  how “our analysis found that people may not always realise they need health (or social) care and the process of seeking health can generate more anxiety.”

Your GP

Your GP is the first person to see for most issues to do with your health. If you are possibly seeking a diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Condition, talk it over with your GP. It is your GP who can refer you to the Sheffield SAANS service for an assessment and a diagnosis, with the opportunity for follow-up specialist help.

Poster for GPs’ surgeries

Work with your local GP to get them to provide a quiet (sensory break) room in their waiting area for autistic adults/children. It could make a big difference to you or your son / daughter if there was somewhere quiet and away from fluorescent lighting to wait instead of sitting amongst a lot of strangers, usually with a TV or radio blaring and under heavy lighting.

Just download this poster and take it along to your GP and ask to speak to your practice manager – it is your right to ask for this as part of the Autism Act 2009 all front line staff MUST made reasonable adjustments to accommodate adults/children with an ASC.

Health advice for autistic people (sponsored by Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group)

Mental Health

How to get help: see this page

What to do in a crisis:  see this page and this page

For NHS ‘Single Point of Access’ for mental health support in Sheffield ring 0808 1644660

Note – See also our FAQs on Mental Health and Autism

Sheffield Mental Health Guide

Sheffield Mental Health Guide is an on-line resource featuring a comprehensive searchable directory of mental health and wellbeing related services and groups in Sheffield, as well as providing other useful information and self-help resources.
The Guide contains a large directory of organisations and services, all providing support for particular issues or working in specific areas of the city. The purpose of the directory is to enable individuals to find out what is available in Sheffield and make informed choices that suit them best.”

Sheffield Mind

“We have a wide choice of services available to anyone in Sheffield. These range from counselling and psychotherapy to anger management courses and workshops on topics such as emotional wellbeing and living a healthy lifestyle. You can access all our services yourself and if you’re unsure which would be most useful give us a call to talk it through.”
See the Sheffield Mind website  for contact details and a full list and description of their services.

Mental Health Matters Sheffield Support Hub

Phone: 07890 987 384
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 6pm – midnight, Saturday and Sunday, 2pm – midnight
Address: 44 Bank Street, Sheffield, S1 2DS

If you require support, we advise that you telephone the Support Hub for an appointment.

Calls and emails are monitored by staff during opening hours. You may email/leave a message at any other time of day and these will be responded to during opening hours.

How do we offer support: Clients have a choice of how they can receive support from our staff, and this can be either face to face, phone calls, email or video consultation.

see leaflet Sheffield Support Hub – A5 Leaflet

and website for more information:

Sheffield Flourish

Sheffield Flourish is a mental health charity rooted in Sheffield and owned by the community. We aim to involve people who live with mental health difficulties and distress in everything we do. This is because we value the skills, knowledge and insight of Sheffield’s communities.”

Sheffield IAPT

(Improving Access to Psychological Therapies)  see this page

Sheffield NHS Clinical Commissioning Group Mental Health Page

National Autistic Society advice on Mental Health and Autism

See also this information (January 2021) from the National Autistic Society about government proposals to change the law on mental health and detention under the Mental Health Act

Hospital / Health Passport Schemes

The National Autistic Society has developed a Hospital ‘Passport’ for people who may find going into hospital to stressful and difficult if they have an autism spectrum condition. The passport is endorsed by the Department of Health and promoted by NHS England.

To download the passport and the accompanying guidance go to this page.

For those people with a learning disability Sheffield has devised its own health passport scheme:

This is a really useful document as it covers many aspects of the care that people (who might not be able to speak for themselves) will need when they in a health care setting or when they are admitted into hospital.

The Sheffield Adult Safeguarding Partnership have worked with the Customer Forum to design a health passport with the support of Mencap. This can be used by someone with a learning disability to provide key information such as personal details, the type of medication they are taking, and any pre-existing health conditions.

The passport also includes information about how a person communicates and their likes and dislikes, which help professional’s better support someone appropriately in a health setting.

There is space to record how someone expresses happiness, what foods are liked as well as medical information such as illnesses, medication and allergies.

The Health Passport can help ensure someone gets the right treatment and care while giving health staff information to better understand their needs and help them make any appropriate changes to how their treatment or care is provided.

You can download a copy of the Hospital Passport from here:

NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group

Your Health page
“NHS Sheffield CCG is committed to putting patients first. In this part of the website you will find useful information on, and links to, services in the city as well as some health advice. If you can’t find what you need in our menu to the left hopefully NHS Choices will be able to help you.”

The NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group’s Autism Spectrum Condition page:

Mental Health page:

Health and Wellbeing in Sheffield

See the Sheffield Directory pages on Health and Wellbeing:



NHS Choices – Living with autism

NHS Living with Autism pages

NICE guidelines (last updated August 2016)

NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) have produced clinical guidelines to advise the NHS on caring for people with specific conditions or diseases and the treatments they should receive.

Find out what advice is given to the NHS about Autism Spectrum Disorder in Adults

Autism and Sleep

Sleep is such an important issue affecting health and daily living for autistic people, both children and adults. Here are two sources of information and advice with lots of links to further articles covering many aspects of this topic:

Going to the dentist

Youtube video from Health Education England for those with a learning disability: “Going to the dentist may not be a positive experience particularly if you have a learning disability. This video is there to help and make your dental appointment a positive choice.”