Why is it so important for CAMHS to support Autistic children?
Autistic children, much like Autistic adults, live in a world that bombards them with traumatic experiences. There is often a misunderstanding around what trauma is caused by the neuronormative standard of what is allowed to be viewed as traumatic. The truth is that trauma can look different for Autistic people. Trauma that often lands our children on a CAMHS waiting list.
It is no surprise then that in a previous article I found that 70% of Autistic people experience issues with their mental health compared to 25% of the general population. This has resulted in a staggeringly high suicide rate with equally concerning numbers for the number of attempted suicides. Autistic people are losing their lives because of the cruelty and mistreatment inflicted upon them by this world.
Why is it then that CAMHS is turning away children who carry a label of “autism”? As soon as that word is queried or associated with the Autistic person, many services will turn them away. If you are Autistic and on a CAMHS waiting list, you very quickly learn that your struggle is not something that can be supported.
Autistic children are often referred onto disability services that lack the understanding to support their mental health needs. Too many Autistic children need CAMHS but are instead offered services that lack the expertise to support them. It seems as though there is some circular logic going on here.
CAMHS won’t support Autistic children because they lack the specialist knowledge to do so. However, because this means that Autistic children represent a small amount of their service users, it is deemed that there is no need to upskill their staff. It becomes an iron circle of failure.
Beyond this, CAMHS aren’t even offered the funding to upskill their staff. Mental health services in general have faced decades of underfunding meaning that despite the government’s promise of £150 million in additional funding for mental health, it is likely that this situation is far from fixed.
CAMHS are not just turning away Autistic children. They have a significant lack of competence with regard to Autistic people. This, in part, can be traced back to the medicalisation of Autistic experience and the ignoring of Autistic voices. A lot could be changed simply by inviting Autistic researchers, advocates, and activists into clinical commissioning meetings.
Fundamentally, the first step is to have Autistic children admitted to CAMHS services. The current situation allows for their existence to be ignored, creating environments with no requirement for doing better. We can’t stop there, though, because to do so would be to relegate Autistic children and their families to the position of perpetual educators. Autistic people are not a free educational resource.
We are real people with real lives. Autistic children, like any children, feel love, fear, happiness, and sadness. All Autistic people are threatened while the younger generations of our community are inappropriately supported. We need to create a world that says yes to supporting Autistic children rather than bickering amongst themselves over who is the most qualified to support them.
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Check out more on this topic on the CAMHS Crisis resource page.
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