Autism (Support for Children)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 12th January 2023.

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Photo of Miles Briggs Miles Briggs Conservative

4. To ask the Scottish Government what cross-government review it has undertaken of policies supporting children with autism, including any assessment of the links between autism and other conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. (S6O-01759)

Photo of Clare Haughey Clare Haughey Scottish National Party

In March

2021, following a review, the Scottish Government published “Learning/Intellectual Disability and Autism: Towards Transformation”. Our plan looks at the actions that are needed to shape supports, services and attitudes to ensure that the human rights of autistic people and people with learning or intellectual disabilities are respected and protected. The plan includes a range of actions across the lifespan, including actions related to education, restraint and seclusion, health, post-diagnostic support, social care and employment.

In September 2021, we published the national neurodevelopmental specification for children and young people. It sets out seven standards for service providers to ensure that children and young people who have neurodevelopmental profiles receive the support that they need. Those cover autism and ADHD.

ADHD affects 5 to 7 per cent of the population, and co-occurrence across neurodevelopmental conditions is the norm. We know from research that 50 to 70 per cent of autistic people also present with ADHD, and that 20 to 50 per cent of children with ADHD also meet the criteria for autism.

Photo of Miles Briggs Miles Briggs Conservative

I thank the minister for that useful answer.

One of my constituents is a mother of two boys who were diagnosed with autism by NHS Lothian some years back. She has told me about how she has watched her boys struggle to function at school and in society for up to six years. She took her boys to get a private assessment for ADHD, after which both were diagnosed and given the necessary support and medication. That has helped to transform their lives.

Will the Scottish Government agree to review pathways and guidance to ensure that health boards across Scotland are taking a holistic approach to the assessment of children? Will the Government also ensure that health boards review cases from over the past five years of children who have been diagnosed with autism to offer them a chance for an assessment for ADHD?

Photo of Clare Haughey Clare Haughey Scottish National Party

I think that we are straying into territory that is under the portfolio responsibilities of my colleagues in health. I will ask the Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care to respond directly to the points that the member raises about health board pathways.

However, I can say that Scottish Government policies take a wide developmental approach that is inclusive of people with a range of conditions, including autism, learning disabilities, ADHD and fetal alcohol syndrome. We fund the national autism implementation team as a key partner, and it supports us with policy development across health and social care, as well as in education.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

There are a couple of supplementaries. They will need to be brief, as will the responses to them.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

It is understood that the impact of changes that occur in adolescence are more difficult for some neurodiverse young people to manage than for their neurotypical peers. What engagement has the minister had with neurodiverse adolescents and their parents to ensure that Scottish Government policies that are intended to support young neurodiverse people reflect the particular difficulties that are associated with that transition?

Photo of Clare Haughey Clare Haughey Scottish National Party

In line with the development of all policy that affects those with lived experience, the Scottish Government will engage regularly with service providers, children and young people and their families and carers, and with key stakeholders, in the development of pathways and service provision.

Photo of Foysol Choudhury Foysol Choudhury Labour

Multiple constituents have approached me, as parents, with their concerns about how schools are treating their child with autism and the impact that that has on their child’s mental health. What action is the Scottish Government taking to ensure that children with autism are offered sufficient mental health support in school and that safeguards exist against poor practice?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

As briefly as possible, minister.

Photo of Clare Haughey Clare Haughey Scottish National Party

Again, I think that that question strays into the territory of the health portfolio. The “Review of additional support for learning implementation: report”, which was published in 2020, set out a clear direction of how we can continue to build on our progress, and it made recommendations on how to improve the implementation of additional support for learning, which is vital for those young people.

We published our joint action plan with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland in October 2020, which set out the measures that we will take to implement those recommendations.

Last November, we published our second progress report and an updated action plan, which highlights that 24 of the 76 recommendations have been completed and that the rest are under way.

I hope that that gives the member some reassurance about the work that is being done in the education portfolio, but, if he wishes to pick up on other areas that are covered by my colleagues in health, I am more than happy to get them to write to him.