Quality statement 5: Treating the core features of autism: psychosocial interventions

Quality statement

People with autism have a documented discussion with a member of the autism team about opportunities to take part in age-appropriate psychosocial interventions to help address the core features of autism.

Rationale

Psychosocial interventions should be considered for people with autism and their families and carers, because evidence suggests that they can help in the management of the core features of autism for some people. Different types of psychosocial interventions should be considered, depending on the age and needs of the person. Current practice suggests that the availability of psychosocial interventions for people with autism is variable.

Quality measures

Structure

Evidence of local arrangements to ensure that all people with autism have a documented discussion with a member of the autism team about opportunities to take part in age-appropriate psychosocial interventions to help address the core features of autism.

Data source: Local data collection

Process

The proportion of people with autism who have a documented discussion with a member of the autism team about opportunities to take part in age-appropriate psychosocial interventions to help address the core features of autism.

Numerator – the number of people in the denominator who have a documented discussion with a member of the autism team about opportunities to take part in age-appropriate psychosocial interventions to help address the core features of autism.

Denominator – the number of people with autism.

Data source: Local data collection

What the quality statement means for service providers, health and social care practitioners, and commissioners

Service providers ensure that there is sufficient availability of the appropriate psychosocial interventions for staff to be able to offer people with autism the opportunity to take part in psychosocial interventions to help address the core features of autism

Health and social care practitioners ensure that they have documented discussions with people who have autism about age-appropriate psychosocial interventions to help address the core features of autism.

Commissioners work with providers to ensure that age-appropriate psychological interventions to help address the core features of autism are available for people with autism.

What the quality statement means for service users and carers

People with autism and (if appropriate) their families and carers have a discussion with members of the autism team (or other health or social care practitioners) about whether they would benefit from taking part in activities to help them with the main signs of autism. For children these activities could include play-based learning and improving social skills. For adults they could include leisure activities, improving social skills, and help with day-to-day activities and with getting a job.

Source guidance

  • Autism: the management and support of children and young people on the autism spectrum (NICE clinical guideline 170), recommendation 1.3.1

  • Autism: recognition, referral, diagnosis and management of adults on the autism spectrum (NICE clinical guideline 142), recommendations 1.4.1–12

Definitions of terms used in this quality statement

Psychosocial interventions for children and young people

This describes social-communication interventions to address the core features of autism in children and young people, based on recommendation 1.3.1 in NICE clinical guideline 170, including play-based strategies with parents, carers and teachers to increase joint attention, engagement and reciprocal communication in the child or young person. Strategies should:

  • be adjusted to the child or young person's developmental level

  • aim to increase the parents, carers, teachers or peers' understanding of, and sensitivity and responsiveness to, the child or young person's patterns of communication and interaction

  • include techniques of therapist modelling and video-interaction feedback

  • include techniques to expand the child or young person's communication, interactive play and social routines.

The intervention should be delivered by a trained professional. For pre‑school children consider parent, carer or teacher mediation. For school‑aged children consider peer mediation.

Psychosocial interventions for adults

The most appropriate psychosocial interventions for adults with autism should be identified based on the person's specific needs. The decision-making process should be based on recommendations 1.3.1–5 in NICE clinical guideline 142. Recommendations 1.4.1–12 in NICE clinical guideline 142 describe the different types of psychosocial interventions and how they should be delivered.

Core features of autism

The core features of autism are described as qualitative differences and impairments in reciprocal social interaction and social communication, combined with restricted and stereotyped interests and activities, and rigid and repetitive behaviours.

[Adapted from Autism: The management and support of children and young people on the autism spectrum (NICE clinical guideline 170), recommendation 1.3.1; and Autism: recognition, referral, diagnosis and management of adults on the autism spectrum (NICE clinical guideline 142), recommendations 1.4.1–1.4.12]