We are exploring the use of a digital strengths and needs assessment toolkit to help autistic people get ongoing personalised support wherever they need it.

We are gathering evidence about experiences using the digital toolkit and how the information it provides can improve support for autistic people.

We will explore the use of the toolkit in three different settings:

  • education
  • employment
  • healthcare

The aim is to explore how a strength and needs assessment can support autistic and ADHD people who have a diagnosis or are waiting to be diagnosed. The toolkit's strengths and needs profiles can help them understand their talents and the areas they might benefit from more personalised support or adjustments.

Explaining the need for this project

Autistic people all have very different strengths and needs. It means that support looks different for every person. Due to a lack of early, personalised and effective support, too many autistic people face a lifetime of inequalities. This affects their education, employment, health and overall quality of life. Too many autistic people sit on diagnosis waiting lists for years before support opens up. And too many have to be at crisis point to get any support at all. Autistic people need to be able to understand themselves and their needs and how these change over time. They also need services to understand how best to support them. This will enable them to have the best chance of a happy, healthy life.

The research process

The toolkit being explored was developed by the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. It is based on the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) framework created by the World Health Organisation. The tool has not yet been tested with autistic people in UK education, health and employment settings until now.

The toolkit is a digital questionnaire that is completed by the autistic person or by someone else on their behalf - for example, a parent or caregiver. The questionnaire covers a person's physical needs, health conditions, activities and participation in society, and other factors relevant to them or their environment.

Autistica has brought together a consortium of research partners to assess this toolkit in a range of three settings.

The trial involves asking autistic people to complete the toolkit assessment. This will include people with a diagnosis or waiting for a diagnosis. They will be asked what they think of the toolkit and the strengths and needs profile it produces.

We will also ask people likely to see the profile what they think of it. This group will include GPs, clinicians, SENCOs, employers, and family members.

How this project is making a difference

This initial trial will help us to understand how a toolkit to understand an individual's strengths and support needs is useful for autistic people and practical for use across health, education and work settings. We will seek further funding after this trial to roll out much larger scale studies in each of these three settings and beyond.

Our hope for the future is that every autistic person, whether they have a diagnosis or not, has access to effective, personalised support that allows them to thrive.