• A POSTnote on autism will update our work from 2008.
  • It will outline changes in awareness and research and examine the extent to which these have improved service provision for people with autism.
  • Work on this POSTnote has been completed. You can read the full report online. Updated 23 January 2020.

Autism affects the way that someone engages with the world around them and is thought to affect around 1% of the UK population. This note provides an update on current research on autism, and public-policy issues that are relevant to autistic people. It also explores the impact of involving the autism community in shaping UK research and policy.


Autism is a lifelong condition. Although most diagnoses are made in early childhood, autism is increasingly recognised in an adult population. Within the autistic population, it is thought that around 50% have a learning disability, and around 30% are non-speaking. Many autistic people have a co-occurring diagnosis of neurodevelopmental conditions, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or epilepsy. In 2009, the Autism Act outlined how the government was going to meet the needs of autistic adults, which included improved diagnostic support and employment opportunities. A recent report jointly published by the All-party Parliamentary Group on Autism and the National Autistic Society (2019) evaluated the impact of the Autism Act. This report outlined priority areas for autistic people, which included improving services in physical health, mental health, education, and employment. Recent parliamentary debates have also highlighted the need for better transition and communication across different services for autistic people. The government is expected to publish an updated autism strategy for autistic adults and children in late 2019.
 
A previous POSTnote about autism (302)  was published in 2008. Since then, much has changed in the public awareness and understanding of autism, in government legislation about autism and service provision, as well as the autism community priorities for research and policy.
 
The aims of this POSTnote are to provide MPs and Peers with an overview setting out:

  • An updated overview of autism, including prevalence, outcomes, and recent research.
  • The prevalence of physical and mental health conditions which co-occur with autism, including learning disability, and implications for public policy
  • An overview and evaluation of support and services available for autistic people in the UK, including models of good practice
  • How autistic people are and can be involved in shaping research and policy in the UK