On November 30th, Changing Our Lives delivered some autism training to members of the staff team at Carters Green Medical Centre in West Bromwich. The training was delivered by Richard Johnson, who himself has a diagnosis of autism. It is part of a wider pilot scheme currently being carried out by Changing Our Lives, and is aimed at improving health services for people with disabilities and mental health issues. Fourteen members of staff attended the training session. The team was made up of the following: general practitioners, registrars, senior practice partners, patient care advisors, a physician assistant, administrators and receptionists.
The main objective of the training is to simply raise awareness; we want to make sure that staff in health services gain a better understanding of the autistic spectrum and how, by applying this knowledge to their respective job roles, they can improve the overall patient experience of someone with autism by offering the best possible practice. The presentation highlights the main areas of difficulties in which people with autism face: difficulties in coping with change and problems with social interaction, to name just a few. It's important that staff understand what the main characteristics of autism are, but the training explains that there are varying degrees of autism and that it affects different people in different ways. It stresses that autism is often known as a 'hidden disability' and, particularly with those who are at the mild end of the spectrum, it can be difficult to identify; therefore, it is very important that staff are mindful about this and know how to make reasonable adjustments to suit the individual.
Staff members were given some examples of what reasonable adjustments might be and how they could significantly reduce a patient's anxiety. The trainer explained, for instance, that a person on the autistic spectrum may find the noise of people talking in a waiting room very overpowering. A reasonable adjustment in this case might be to offer the patient a separate waiting area which is quiet. Other examples included offering more flexibility around the times of appointments, as some patients with autism are likely to become anxious if they have to wait too long for their appointment; offering longer appointments, as this would give them more time to process the information in which they are given by their GP and, whenever possible, letting patients know in advance when their appointments will take place.
Fact or Myth Quiz
The training session also includes an interactive quiz in which each group member is given ten statements about autism and has a few minutes to decide which of these are fact and which are myth. The purpose of the quiz is to make the training more enjoyable for the participants, but it's also interesting to find out what the team already knows about autism. The training is brought to life with the addition of inserted video clips. This allows the audience to relate to the content of the training.
We were inundated with positive feedback comments. There were simply too many to include them all in this article; however, here is a selection of what we considered to be some of the most inspirational ones:
'Very good, well delivered and informative'
'Excellent, thought provoking and delivered to a high standard.'
'Brilliant, presenter was very articulate.'
'In depth and informative, well explained and plenty of opportunity to add own thoughts and experiences.'
'Very positive and educational, filled with real life examples, professionally delivered'
'Brought a realistic aspect to the presentation, using real life examples, which made the training more empowering'
It was great to see the audience thoroughly engrossed throughout the training. The feedback clearly indicates that everyone enjoyed the training and, more importantly, felt that they had gained valuable knowledge on autism and how reasonable adjustments could give the patient an altogether better experience.
Audience Gained Valuable Knowledge