Creating the All-Age Autism Strategy
Autism affects each person in different ways. Being autistic does not mean you have an illness or disease. It means your brain works in a different way from other people. If you’re autistic, you’re autistic your whole life. Autistic people in Buckinghamshire said that they want to:
- live as independently as possible
- have the same opportunities and experiences as everyone else
- use the services they need when they need them
- work with us to change our policies, approach and services
To make this happen, the Council have been creating an autism strategy. (This is a bit like an instruction manual about how to make Buckinghamshire better for autistic people.)
The All-Age Autism Strategy team have been committed to listening to the voices of autistic people – including autistic young people – throughout the development of the strategy.
How did we listen, act and respond?
Young people could share their experiences, ideas, and opinions in many different ways. A formal autism diagnosis was not needed to take part.
- Schools workshops
The All-Age Autism Strategy team visited schools in July and September 2023 to host 1-hour workshops on the draft strategy and hear students’ views.
The session plan and workbooks were adapted and approved by two autistic young people who are members of the Youth Voice Executive Committee.
- Youth Consultation Survey
Young people could share their views on the draft strategy through a young people’s survey which ran between July and September 2023.
It could be completed with support from an adult or friend where needed. The surveys could be completed anonymously.
- Adult Survey
Young people were also welcome to complete the adult version of the survey too where they felt this suited them best.
There was also a printed version of this survey and an easy-read version.
- Consultation events
In July, August, and September, the All-Age Autism Strategy team ran engagement events in person and online. Young people could join these to talk to the team directly and share their thoughts.
- Email and letter
Creative responses, comments and questions from children, young people, and those around them, could also be sent in via email or letter.
There was also an option to access the surveys in another format or language.
The All-Age Autism Strategy team acted by carefully collecting the information young people shared.
They are now using this information to make changes to the All-Age Autism Strategy.
At the activities listed above, young people were informed that they could keep up to date with this project via the Youth Voice Bucks website – so we made this webpage!
The notes from the workshops held in schools will be published below soon. These will also be emailed to the students’ teachers to be shared with them, and the young participants have been told that they are welcome to check the notes and ask for changes if they feel anything has been missed or recorded incorrectly. Once the strategy has been published, this will be sent to the students that took part in the workshops via their teachers too, along with a reminder that this webpage is available for them to check out.
What did young people say?
Key messages from young people
- Overall, young people agreed with the Strategy’s priority areas.
- Awareness and understanding stood out as a top priority for young people.
- Getting the right support in school is essential to autistic young people. Currently, young autistic people in Buckinghamshire are experiencing mixed responses from their teachers with regards to their autism, Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) and reasonable adjustments. Cases of good and poor practice were shared by students. Students would like teachers to have more training around autism.
- Young people are interested in the needs-based model priority and are in support of the principle of not needing a diagnosis in order to access support at school.
However, young people feel that a needs-based model cannot replace a diagnosis, because a diagnosis forms part of your identity and self-understanding.
- The phrase “needs-based model” is confusing to young people. This needs to be well-explained. The phrase “health inequalities” should also be described clearly.
- Masking is a topic of interest for autistic young people – especially autistic young women – and students would like masking to be mentioned in the strategy.
- Young people are passionate about positive representation of autism in the media.
You can read the full notes from the schools workshops and the full report from the young people’s surveys by clicking on the buttons below.
The Youth Voice Bucks team will keep this webpage updates as the project develops.
The final version of the strategy will be published in October 2023.
The team, with partners, will also create an action plan. The action plan will detail what action will be taken, and by whom, in response to the key messages from the All-Age Autism Strategy. This will be overseen by a group of people called the All-Age Autism Strategy Steering Group.
Impact and learning
- Schools workshops have proved to be an effective and efficient way of gathering young people’s input into Council consultations.
- Several young people who took part in school workshops are now getting involved in other youth voice projects, such as the Youth Voice Executive Committee and Shout Out for SEND reps.
Interested in using your voice to improve services for autistic young people?
The opportunity to share your views to contribute to the All-Age Autism Strategy has now closed, but there are other ways that you can share your experiences, ideas, and opinions to improve things for autistic people in Buckinghamshire.
Talkback is a charity that helps autistic people and people with a learning disability embrace new opportunities. So they can lead the fulfilling lives they want and activbly contribute to their community.
Shout Out for SEND reps
Shout Out Reps speak for their school, college, friends and community. They meet each month to share the views of young people with SEND in Buckinghamshire. Their ideas are given to the people who make decisions at the council.