The national strategy defines autism in the following way:

“A lifelong condition that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how a person makes sense of the world around them. The three main areas of difficulty, which all people with autism share are known as the “triad of impairments”. These are difficulties with: 
  • Social communication (e.g. problem solving and understanding verbal and non-verbal language such as gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice)
  • Social interaction (e.g. problems in recognising and understanding other people’s feelings and managing their own)
  • Social Imagination(e.g. problems in understanding and predicting other people’s intentions and behaviour and imagining situations outside their own routine” (Fulfilling and Rewarding Lives, 2010, p10)
Many people with autism experience sensory sensitivity or under activity, e.g. sounds, touch, taste, smells, light or colour. Often individuals may engage in repetitive behaviour, have intense special interests, like to have a fixed routine and can find change very difficult to cope with. The word “spectrum” is often applied to the condition because its characteristics can vary widely from person to person and affect people to different extents. 

Classic autism

“Classic autism” (sometimes known as Kanner’s syndrome) is the most common and severe condition in the group. Individuals with classic autism have the greatest difficulties in communicating and making sense of the world. The individual will often have limited or no verbal communication and associated learning disabilities, with a below average Intelligence Quotient (IQ).

Aspergers Syndrome (AS)

Aspergers Syndrome (AS) describes individuals at the highest- functioning end of the spectrum. Individuals with AS have fewer problems with speech and are often of average or above average intelligence. Many do not have the accompanying learning disabilities often associated with autism but may have specific learning difficulties e.g. dyslexia, dyspraxia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (NAS website). Most people with AS will experience significant difficulties in reading signals, communication and social interaction with others. Individuals with AS are particularly vulnerable to mental health problems.

Other Autistic Spectrum Conditions

Other Autistic Spectrum Conditions include Rett Syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive development disorder not otherwise specified (usually referred to as PDD-NOS) (from National Institutes of Health).

How are these services commissioned locally?

Commissioning of services is undertaken through the joint commissioning team for mental health and learning disabilities and is supported by the Autism Partnership board.

The Autism Partnership board meets quarterly and is made up of a group of people who are committed to improving the lives of people with autism. It aims to move forward with development of the local strategy and local services (using the guidance provided in Implementing Fulfilling and Rewarding Lives) for people with autism, supporting and monitoring  progress of the development of services, and sharing  information about service development with networks involved with people with autism. It is made up of People with autism, family carers, Birmingham City Council, service providers and voluntary organisations.

The only services that are currently available within the NHS are diagnostic services. Following diagnosis advice would be offered regarding the patients self management of their condition and they may be advised to contact Autism West Midlands 

Diagnosis of autism is carried out in line with the Birmingham Autism Strategy, GP’s and other healthcare professionals can request autism diagnostic assessment by contacting the Joint Commissioning team.


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