World Autism Month 2023: Development of eModule on Basics of Autism and Best Practice for Support
Consultant Learning Disability Psychiatrists Dr Brian Fitzgerald and Dr Linda O’Rourke discuss the development of a College eModule on the basics of autism and best practice for supporting autistic patients.
The College of Psychiatrists of Ireland is developing an eModule for doctors to provide information on Autism, to help doctors recognise and understand what Autism is, and to provide information on how doctors may reasonably support Autistic patients they meet.
Donald Gray Triplett (born September 8, 1933) is an American man known for being the first person in the world to be diagnosed with autism. The diagnosis was made by psychiatrist Leo Kanner. Over the last 90 years or so, the concepts and ideas around Autism have greatly developed. Originally, Autism was very much a medical diagnosis, and a label put on people to describe pathology. It was, in short, something in need of treatment or a cure. In recent decades, the ownership of Autism has moved away from the language and considerations of pathology to being more embraced by those diagnosed with Autism, along with their families, carers and champions.
Autism affects people in different ways. There is a very broad spectrum of experiences, with some overlapping themes. Autism is thought to affect between 1 to 1.5% of the entire population.
Doctors may wonder why a condition that is now considered a difference rather than a disease or disorder would warrant medical attention at all, but Autism can be extremely restricting and disabling. That said, support often requires little more than being reasonable and fair, and therapies or drugs are not required in almost all circumstances. However, getting things wrong can be disastrous for an Autistic person.
Doctors constantly engage with the public, so an awareness of what Autism is and how to be fair, reasonable and accommodating if one meets an Autistic person is required. As understanding of Autism has gradually become more mainstream, requests to be assessed and diagnosed have increased. Despite this growing understanding of Autism and the mainstreaming of an empowerment-led approach and outlook, many myths and damaging theories and interventions still exist.
Autistic people will present in any health setting, as a patient, member of staff, relative, etc. Some doctors may themselves be Autistic, or experience some or all traits of Autism. As such, adjustments need to be made in everyone’s best interest with the expectation that they will encounter an Autistic person, perhaps without even knowing or recognizing it. Despite how far we have come from a pathological model of understanding, there is still much to learn from Autistic people.
With all this in mind, the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland is developing an eModule for doctors in training to explain the basics of what Autism is and consensus ideas and best practice on how best to support the Autistic patients they meet.