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New trials aim to improve quality of life for autistic people

Announced at the start of autism awareness month, a new clinical trial will test the effectiveness of a new medicine and psychological therapy.

03/04/23

New trials aim to improve quality of life for autistic people

A new trial will test methods of supporting autistic people to achieve a better quality of life.

Academics at the Centre for Educational Development, Appraisal and Research (CEDAR) are launching two clinical trials and are encouraging autistic adults to consider taking part, as part of ongoing research into the best way to support neurodiverse individuals.

The first trial aims to determine whether a medicine called sertraline, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) commonly used in treating depression, is helpful for anxiety. The second aims to determine whether a psychological therapy reduces symptoms of low mood and depression. Both trials are recruiting autistic adults who live within Coventry and Warwickshire as well as from other regions in England.

The clinical trials aim to address the challenges faced by autistic individuals and provide them with the necessary support and resources to improve their overall well-being. Experts believe that providing support to autistic people that has been developed with autistic people themselves can to more people reaching their full potential.

“Being autistic is like everyone has a book on all the rules of how to act except you, but nobody will give you a copy or show you theirs,” Ben Althen, Welfare Officer for Autistic students at Warwick, said.

Professor Kylie Gray, Professor in Neurodevelopmental Disorders or Psychology and special educational needs at the University of Warwick said that the trials present an opportunity for autistic people to “play an active role in shaping the future of autism research and NHS services while helping to improve lives”.

“Participation in clinical trials is essential to advancing our understanding of the best way to support autistic people with their mental health,” Professor Peter Langdon, Honorary Consultant in Clinical Psychology at the University of Warwick added.

The trials have been launched at the start of Autism Awareness Month, which aims to highlight issues faced by neurodiverse individuals. According to the National Autistic Society, there are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK.

Assuring Transformation NHS Digital data released last month showed that 2,045 autistic people and people with learning disabilities are in inpatient mental health hospitals in England.

“It is widely recognised that for most autistic people, care in an inpatient unit is rarely helpful – in fact, it can be deeply damaging,” the National Autistic Society (NAS) said about the figures.

The topic was covered last month at the Social Work Innovations conference, part of the COMPASS Jobs Fair, with Liz Howard, Professional Officer at British Association of Social Workers (BASW), discussing the Homes not Hospitals Campaign which is a response to issues with the current system that sees too many autistic people and people with learning disabilities detained in hospital Assessment and Treatment Units (ATUs) or restrictive care arrangements and seclusion units.

Find out more about BASW’s Homes Not Hospitals campaign: https://www.basw.co.uk/homes-not-hospitals

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