The Autism Plan (TAP) is a new online service for parents and carers of children with autism, accessible from the comfort of their own homes at the times of their own choosing.
The plan was created by a team of consultants, parents and professionals, including mother of two Nicola Powell, whose daughter Ellie, aged 11, regularly vlogs about her experiences as a way of helping other children in a similar situation. Also involved are autism consultants Anna Rattlidge and Deborah Brownson MBE. The idea was conceived in response to a growing body of evidence showing that ‘access to positive, pro-active and readily-available support provided to parents can influence life-changing outcomes’.1
Yet, despite significant progress in raising awareness of autism, there are still wide variations in the quality and relevance of information provided to parents, lengthy waiting lists to see autism experts and a general lack of practical family-focused support from relevant organisations.
“Receiving a diagnosis of autism for your child can be particularly overwhelming,” said Anna. “Through my experience and history of managing the Autism Helpline at the National Autistic Society, I have seen time and again how practical advice designed around a family’s unique set of circumstances can really help parents new to autism learn how best to help and support their child.”
“At TAP, we focus on strengths, rather than seeing an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis as a set of vulnerabilities,” added Anna. “Although the term ASD includes the word ‘disorder’, we have a different view of autism. We don’t see it as a ‘disorder’. We focus on the parents/carers, as well as the child, and aim to build the confidence of parents, by increasing understanding of ‘what next’ post-diagnosis. We will be providing tried and tested practical strategies, devised by experienced autism consultants and professionals, supported by resources that will enable parents and carers to confidently manage the new direction in their family life.”
Nicola added: “The basis of The Autism Plan is to provide accessible information, practical resources and empowering support plans, at a time of their choosing, for people living with autism. I know from personal experience that it can be an emotional time for parents, who are often dealing with different stages of acceptance. There can be a conflict for them as they try to learn what they ‘should be doing’, often all at once, whilst dealing with the added pressure of the general public’s overall lack of understanding of autism and the anxiety, confusion, stress and distress that this can cause. We have called our family-focused support plan ‘Autism: Everything We Wish We’d Known’ because we don’t want to see other families struggle as we did when our children were diagnosed. We want to help other autism families and share with them everything we can to make their situation feel brighter.”
Deborah added, “This is the world's first global support network for autism families. The Autism Plan will revolutionise and digitalise the way in which information and bespoke support is accessed by people, families, and professionals living and working with autism”.
Mum Sarah Dean, who has used various autism support services and helped to develop the TAP materials, added: “My experience with finding accessible support relevant for my own set of circumstances was very difficult. TAP’s support course also helped build my confidence in knowing that it was not ‘bad parenting’ that was the cause of my son’s behaviour challenges. I now try new strategies and techniques recommended to me by The Autism Plan to support my son, and the results have been amazing. I believe the information and support TAP offers will help lots of other parents in similar situations to our family”.
The Autism Plan is centred around the strengths, the potential and the positives living with autism can bring and is aimed at parents, teachers and carers. Without waiting for lengthy referral times and negotiating long waiting lists, TAP provides accessible and flexible online support plans, at a time when parents can access them, from the comfort of their own home.
To view The Autism Plan’s Support Service, guides, resources and materials visit www.autismplan.co.uk or Facebook: @autismplan and Twitter: @theautismplan
1. “The dots just don’t join up”: Understanding the support needs of families of children on the autism spectrum. James Galpin et al, The Bridge School, Islington, UK; Centre for Research in Autism and Education (CRAE), UCL Institute of Education, University College London, UK; School of Psychology, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia (2017) http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1362361316687989
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