There is increasing awareness that autistic people may
be at higher risk of homelessness. This has not previously been recognised, and as a result services may not be meeting the different needs of autistic people experiencing homelessness.
Autism is a lifelong disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others. It is likely that autistic people are not only more at risk of becoming homeless, but also more vulnerable once they are on the streets; they may also find it more difficult to move into new accommodation.
Drawing on the expertise of people with lived experience, charities, professionals and academic researchers, this toolkit is aimed at staff and organisations who work with people experiencing homelessness in England. It describes what autism is, how to recognise it, and how to work effectively with people who are known to be autistic or who staff think could be autistic.
Staff working in the homelessness and supported housing sectors can use this toolkit by incorporating appropriate elements into their work processes and services, as required. Managers and other staff may also wish to use the toolkit as a basis for presentations or workshops on autism and homelessness. […]
Sneak Peek of PDF Report …
3.What is autism?
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others.
Autistic people see, hear and feel the world differently to other people. If a person is autistic they are autistic for life; autism is not an illness or disease and cannot be ‘cured’.
Autism is a spectrum condition.All autistic people share certain difficulties, but being autistic will affect them in different ways. Some autistic people also have learning disabilities, mental health issues or other conditions, meaning people need different types and levels of support. All people on the autism spectrum learn and develop, and with the right sort of suppor t, all can be helped to live a more fulfilling life of their own choosing.
Characteristics of autism Social communication
Most autistic people have difficulties with interpreting both verbal and non-verbal language like gestures or tone of voice. Many have a very literal understanding of language and think people always mean exactly what they say. They may find it difficult to use or understand facial expressions, tone of voice, and jokes or sarcasm, and they may also need longer to process verbal information.
Autistic people often have difficulty ‘reading’ other people – recognising or understanding others’ feelings and intentions – and expressing their own emotions. This can make it very challenging for them to navigate the social world, and they may struggle to form friendships.
Repetitive behaviour and routines
The world can seem a very unpredictable and confusing place to autistic people, who often prefer to have a daily routine so that they know what is going to happen every day. It may be difficult for an autistic person to take a different approach to something once they have been taught the ‘right’ way to do it, and they may not be comfortable with the idea of change.
Many autistic people have intense and highly-focused interests. These can be anything from art or music to trains or computers.
Autistic people may experience over or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light, colours, temperatures or pain. For example, they may find certain background sounds, which other people ignore or block out, unbearably loud or distracting. This can cause anxiety or even physical pain. Or they may be fascinated by lights or spinning objects.
Autism and gender
Studies have traditionally indicated that autism is much more common in males than females, and more men and boys than women and girls receive an autism diagnosis. However, it is now recognised the male/female ratio is much closer, with the latest research putting it at around 3:1.
For more details see: www.autism.org.uk/ about/what-is/gender.aspx
Strengths of autistic people
It is important to recognise the strengths and skills autistic people may have. Some possess detailed knowledge about things they are interested in, or have par ticular skills in subjects such as maths, IT or ar t. They may have a good eye for detail, an excellent memory, and be able to concentrate well on a specific activity. Autistic people are often direct, truthful and reliable.
An estimated 1.1% of people are autistic in the UK.
People from all nationalities and cultural, religious and social backgrounds can be autistic (Brugha et al., 2012)i
Only one third of autistic adults are in some form of paid employment, full or part-time (National Autistic Society, 2016)ii
8% of men in social housing are identified with an autism spectrum condition (APMS, 2007)iii
Autism can co-occur with a learning disability, but at least half of people on the autism spectrum do not have a learning disability (MacKay et al., 2017)iv
70% of autistic adults say they do not get the help they need from social services (National Autistic Society, 2012)v
79% of autistic adults have had a mental health problem during their life (Lever & Geurts, 2016)vi
79% of autistic people say they feel socially isolated (National Autistic Society, 2016)