Autism

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:10 pm on 29th March 2018.

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Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield 1:10 pm, 29th March 2018

Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker.

I got involved with the autism cause, if I can call it that, very largely because of Dame Cheryl Gillan, who really paved the way with her private Member’s Bill and everything she has done with the all-party parliamentary group on autism. When I was Chair of the Education Committee and then the Children, Schools and Families Committee for 10 years, we looked at special educational needs in some depth, but I never persuaded my Committee to drill down into the autism area strongly enough, so I always had a guilty conscience about that.

After finishing as Chair of the Select Committee and indeed finding that one of the members of my large family is on the autism spectrum, I was energised to get more involved. Working harmoniously with the all-party group, I and others founded the Westminster Commission on Autism. We have already, in a very short period, produced two reports. One of those, “A spectrum of obstacles: an inquiry into access to healthcare for autistic people”, has already brought about substantial changes in how people perceive such healthcare. We found out how worried people on the autism spectrum were about going into an A&E, with the busyness, the lights and the noise, or even going to a GP. Access to healthcare is strictly limited for many people on the autism spectrum. I am delighted that the report has had such a great influence.