CAMHS ignorance of Autistic children runs deeper than refusing to see them
As I have mentioned in previous articles (which can be found here and here), there is an ongoing petition which at the time of writing has over 180,000 signatures. This petition was started because of the ongoing issue with the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) refusing to see or support Autistic children and young people.
This in itself seems bad enough, Autistic people deserve support with their psychological wellbeing as much as anyone else, and with the high incidence of trauma among Autistic people, you can imagine that a service like CAMHS should be a lifeline to us. Instead, we are almost always turned away, and our families are left to work it out with us on their own.
The issue with CAMHS and mental health services in general is deeper than gatekeeping and ignorance, however. It comes down to a sort of cultural competency that most professionals lack when they are working with Autistic service users. What is needed is Neurodivergence Competence.
Essentially, it requires the creation of Autistic safety via a distinct level of competence in Autistic culture, theory, experience, and a broad understanding of the discrimination we have faced both historically and contemporarily. This is what is missing from CAMHS services.
If CAMHS staff had a good understanding of what being Autistic meant, they would not have to turn Autistic children and young people away from their services. The reason they can not work with Autistic people is due to a lack of competence around neurodivergent experience and culture.
While Autistic peers are going to be in a stronger position to provide this kind of care, it is not something that needs to be gatekept to Autistic professionals. Non-Autistic professionals can achieve this kind of competence by engaging in Autistic spaces and accepting the expertise of those who have actual Autistic experience. It’s possible to attain neurodivergence competency by accepting that, at best, your knowledge is second-hand.
Respecting a person’s life and culture can go a long way to improving the way you work with them.
Until such a time that professionals within CAMHS become competent in working with Autistic and otherwise neurodivergent young people, they will continue to fail them. No amount of mandatory training, frameworks, strategies, or specialist services will equate to the importance of this kind of competence.
So please, sign this petition, and help us start the drive to make a CAMHS that is helpful for everyone.
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