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

My hon. Friend is right. We need to spread the knowledge. We need to get the Government, right across the piece—there almost ought to be a Minister for autism—making sure that seamlessly, across all Departments, there is a high level of awareness.

On early diagnosis, the commission heard evidence on what happens in Sweden. Sweden seems to be one of the places that one looks to: I believe that the professor we interviewed was the man who actually minted the expression, “the autism spectrum”. The evidence we were given was that every child in Sweden is evaluated to see whether they are on the spectrum very early on—at seven years of age, I think—so why not every child in the United Kingdom? That is what we should be looking for—early diagnosis and early support of the family.

A lot of people on the autism spectrum fall foul of the criminal justice system. A person on the autism spectrum can get on a bus in a normal way in the morning, then if the bus is cancelled or something else happens that disturbs their routine, that has a very big impact on them. They may behave rather antisocially. The police may be called and they end up in a cell. I have heard this story so many times. The criminal justice system has to look very carefully at the needs of people on the autism spectrum.